The World Cup final is the pinnacle of football—a match that sees the biggest prize in the game go on offer, and it never disappoints.
The 2014 final was no different, as Germany were taken all the way to extra time by Argentina before eventually finding the breakthrough to win 1-0 and claim their fourth world title.
Here, we take a look at the most exciting parts of the match from first minute to last and assess the key moments that saw Germany prevail.
The Best and Worst of Lionel Messi
Had Argentina won the World Cup final at the Maracana Stadium, Lionel Messi would have finally been considered among the best players ever to grace the field of play.
Though he already deserves such a tag, the way that he played against the Germans made his critics begin the make sense, as he truly didn’t get a sniff.
Joachim Low’s side managed to keep him quiet for the duration of the match, but as is always the case with Messi, there was the occasional moment of magic.
With just a few minutes on the clock, the Barcelona man picked up the ball midway inside the German half and showed his electric pace to beat Mats Hummels down the channel, as Squawka Football revealed:
Hummels is hardly the slowest of defenders, but such is the ability of the Argentina captain that he left him trailing in his wake, as Gary Lineker remarked upon:
Hummels appears to be carrying a piano on his back.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) July 13, 2014
Though Messi’s run got the crowd and the viewers’ pulses going, that was as good as it got for the four-time Ballon d’Or winner, who contributed little else to the proceedings.
After Germany took the lead courtesy of a Mario Goetze strike in the second half of extra time, Messi was left with the chance to level the game up in the dying embers of the match.
Seconds remained until the final whistle, giving the 27-year-old the perfect moment to show us why he’s the best of the best.
While the stage was set, Messi clearly wasn’t, as he blazed it hideously over—leaving broadcaster Ian Abrahams to remark upon what was a poor day at the office for the Argentine skipper:
That free kick sums up Messi's night, not good enough— Ian Abrahams (Moose) (@BroadcastMoose) July 13, 2014
Chances for Both Sides
The 0-0 scoreline at the end of regulation time doesn’t exactly tell the story of the World Cup final, as both sides had opportunities to kill the game off.
None more so than Gonzalo Higuain, who missed a guilt-edged chance early in the match after profiting on a rare Germany error.
Midfielder Toni Kroos tried to head the ball back to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer but only found the Napoli star, who failed to take advantage—per Coral:
Gonzalo Higuain doing his best impression of Fernando Torres. https://t.co/d0O55qQSgy— Coral (@Coral) July 13, 2014
Higuain was another Argentina player who had a day to forget in Rio de Janeiro, and his early miss proved decisive at the final whistle.
Rodrigo Palacio also went close for the runners-up, but it wasn’t to be, leaving Messi to lament what could have been at the final whistle—per FIFA.com:
Although they had more of the ball, we had the clearer chances, but those of us up front failed to convert them. We had three opportunities – one fell to me, one to Pipa [Gonzalo Higuain] and one to Rodrigo [Palacio].
As Messi says, Germany did indeed dominate possession, but Goetze’s winner was their only real clear-cut chance of the match.
That’s all they needed though, as the Bayern Munich star slammed the ball home from Andre Schurrle’s cross in the 113th minute to win the trophy—not that he remembered much about it, according to FIFA World Cup:
It was a moment worthy of winning any World Cup, as Oddschecker revealed:
The touch, the finish!! Mario Gotze take a bow https://t.co/Qe6zBYLrPJ— Oddschecker (@Oddschecker) July 13, 2014
Goetze’s brilliance was a fitting end to one of the best World Cups we’ve had the pleasure of watching, and it’s safe to say that the trophy went home with the best side.
At the tender age of 22, Goetze has many a World Cup left in him, though he’s already written himself into German football folklore forever.
The next stop for the Bayern star is Russia in 2018, where Messi will likely have his last chance to earn legendary status by lifting the trophy.