It was a night of history. It was a night of resilience. It was a night of injuries and knocks and bloodied faces and concussions. It was a night of missed chances. Ultimately, it was a night of brilliance.
But more than anything else, it was a night for Germany, as it became the first European country to ever win a World Cup on South American soil, defeating Argentina, 1-0, in extra time. Bleacher Report on Twitter shared the result:
Mario Gotze provided the game-winner in the 113th minute, with a display of skill that will not only live on forever, but also perfectly personified the entirety of this thrilling World Cup.
It was the sort of match that only deserved a winner, not a loser. Andy Brassell of Bleacher Report UK perhaps best summed it up:
Germany deserving winners, on the night and overall. Thoroughly satisfying final between two really good sides, though.— Andy Brassell (@andybrassell) July 13, 2014
Added Jonathan Northcroft of the Sunday Times:
Tight game, but for last eight years of excellence Germany deserve to be world champions. And nobody more excellent or deserving than Lahm.— Jonathan Northcroft (@JNorthcroft) July 13, 2014
And Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports chimed in with his take:
Amazing tourney for Germany. We'll deserved. Began by thrashing Portugal and ended by beating both South American giants. Best team won— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) July 13, 2014
Lukas Podolski wins the award for best selfie at the World Cup with this gem along side German Chancellor Angela Merkel via German Embassy:
Below, we'll take a look back at the major moments of the match and the Twitter reaction they evoked. There were more than a few in what turned out to be a classic final.
Before the match even began, the first storyline emerged, as Sami Khedira injured his calf in warm-ups and had to be removed from the starting lineup. His replacement was Christoph Kramer, who had yet to start a World Cup match for Germany.
Grant Wahl of SI.com wondered how the switch would affect the Germans:
Awful for Khedira personally to miss out last-second on World Cup final. How will #GER respond? Such changes almost always throw teams off.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 13, 2014
Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph suspected Germany would have looked far different in the starting XI had it had more time to adjust to the Khedira injury:
If Low had time to prepare for Khedira loss, Lahm to midfield, Boateng to r-back and Mertesacker in? But could hardly change 3 positions now— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) July 13, 2014
Nonetheless, it was Kramer who earned the start. But in one of the game's next huge storylines, Kramer didn't even last the entire first half.
After a brutal collision with Ezequiel Garay in the 18th minute, Kramer appeared to be concussed. But in what has become a disturbing and all-too-familiar theme, he was allowed to return to the match. Less than 15 minutes later, he was substituted out of the match, clearly still affected by the cobwebs. It was fairly obvious he should never have been allowed back into the game in the first place.
Many on Twitter were incensed. Taylor Twellman of ESPN, an advocate for changing FIFA's protocol when it comes to head injuries, was amongst them:
Here we go again FIFA...#WorldCupFinal and your ineptitude to address the head injury problem is for everyone to see. Kramer was concussed!— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) July 13, 2014
So, too, was Rob Stone of Fox Sports:
Kramer should have been taken off immediately. Glad he is now, but damage done. Shameful. This talking point will only increase.— Rob Stone (@RobStoneONFOX) July 13, 2014
And Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star thinks the entire situation is the perfect example of why such a decision should be taken out of the player's hands:
Those who say it should be the players' decision to play through concussions should take a look at Kramer's face there. Nobody home.— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) July 13, 2014
While Kramer continued to play despite the lights seemingly going out on him, Argentina came alive. Germany was controlling possession, yes, but it was Argentina who was creating the most dangerous chances, as its counterattack looked quite formidable.
Germany also gifted the Argentines a perfect opportunity for a goal. Toni Kroos' misplaced header fell to the feet of Gonzalo Higuain in the 21st minute, all alone on goal, but the Napoli striker completely blew his chance, sending his shot wide.
ESPN FC passed along the footage of the play:
The reaction on Twitter was not terribly kind. Dan Levy of Bleacher Report compared the miss to another sport:
That shot from Higuain would have been a gutterball on the next lane over. Yeesh.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) July 13, 2014
Men in Blazers compared the botched attempt to another epic miss in this year's World Cup, Chris Wondolowski's blown sitter against Belgium:
Higuain is how you say "Wondo" in Spanish— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) July 13, 2014
And Wahl put the whole thing in perspective:
World Cups are won and lost on chances like the one Higuaín just had.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) July 13, 2014
It was a rough night for Higuain. Along with that miss, he also had a goal taken away after he was unnecessarily offside, and was later replaced in the second half.
Another man who had some rough patches was Germany left-back Benedikt Howedes. After nearly earning himself a yellow card for a horrible challenge, he had the chance to give Germany the lead in the waning moments of the first half, as he was completely alone on a header.
Instead, he struck the bar, and the game remained scoreless. Ives Galarcep of Soccer By Ives knew how big a miss that was:
Howedes w/ the free header off the corner, but powers off the post. Offside call was for the rebound. You have to finish that. Golden chance— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) July 13, 2014
It was a thrilling first half despite the goose eggs on the scoreboard, and Lionel Messi was particularly threatening, namely on the counterattack, where his passes sprung the play forward and he had his own chances near goal.
Surprisingly, however, he was rarely on the ball in the first half, as Paul Carr of ESPN noted:
Lionel Messi's 16 first-half touches are his fewest in any full half he's played in this World Cup. #ARG— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) July 13, 2014
He certainly had a bigger impact than that stat implied.
The second half wasn't quite as open, as both teams slowly began to play more conservatively as the match went on. There were chances, however, including a huge one for Messi that he muffed in the 47th minute:
Matteo Bonetti of beIN Sports was as surprised as anyone else that Messi missed that one:
Messi about one Giovinco away from putting that one in! So close for #ARG— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) July 13, 2014
Meanwhile, Levy suspects Manuel Neuer's presence might have had something to do with it:
Messi looked up, saw the best keeper on the planet, and it had to affect that shot.— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) July 13, 2014
Messi wasn't the only one to fluff his lines, however. In the second half, Kroos had multiple good looks to let rip from the edge of the box, one of his specialties, but his attempts were woefully weak.
And so the game would go to extra time, which always seemed inevitable between these teams who were so evenly matched throughout the game.
Extra time had its chances, and its fouls, and one astonishing miss from Rodrigo Palacio:
But it was the most magical of finishes from Mario Gotze that would be the difference in the 113th minute.
Andre Schurrle made a strong run down the left side and lofted a cross to Gotze, who chested it down and volleyed a goal that will long live on in German lore. Check it out for yourselves:
This is the 2nd latest goal in World Cup final history. Mario Gotze. WATCH » http://t.co/04jemM69lc— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 13, 2014
Squawka Football put it into perspective:
Cindy Boren of The Washington Post noted that Gotze will return to quite the party in Germany:
Every day is gonna be Oktoberfest when Gotze gets home.— Cindy Boren (@CindyBoren) July 13, 2014
And Max Bretos of ESPN recognized the moment as a coronation of sorts for Gotze:
The Golden Boy of German Football just became a man. Mario Gotze #GERvsARG— Max Bretos (@mbretosESPN) July 13, 2014
From there, Germany just had to hold on. It did just that. And as the final whistle blew and Germany became the champion, Paul Hayward of The Telegraph described perhaps the defining image of the match:
Apt image of German win: Schweinsteiger, who gave his all, crumpled and empty as whistle blows. First European world champs in Latin America— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) July 13, 2014
That's what it takes to win a World Cup. It takes blood and guts. It takes overcoming more than a few injuries along the way. It takes depth. It takes luck. It takes an identity and a team-first mentality. It takes moments of brilliance. And, as Bastian Schweinsteiger showed, it takes everything you have.
It takes quite a bit of talent, too, and from beginning to end, Germany proved it had more of it than any other squad. Messi would come away with a bit of hardware, being awarded the Golden Ball, but it was little consolation.
Before the conversations begin about Messi's legacy, however, consider the following words from his manager and shared by Oliver Kay of The Times:
Sabella on Messi: "As for his reputation, he is in that pantheon. But he was there before. He has been there for quite some time.” Well put.— Oliver Kay (@OliverKayTimes) July 13, 2014
Legacy or not, this was a night for the Germans. They were deserving champions. They were classy champions. And four years from now, they'll be among the favorites to repeat as champions. John Cross of the Mirror certainly thinks they should continue to be formidable:
Now can they rise to the other challenge of dominating for a generation? Squad is young enough and good enough to do just that. #GER— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) July 13, 2014
You can bet Messi and Co. will have something to say about that in Russia. Brazil, a youth-infused Spain side and—dare we dream?—maybe the United States will have their say, too.
But in 2014, Germany rule the soccer world.