FIFA World Cup

World Cup 2014 Final: Assessing Which Key Battles Decided Germany's Triumph

Argentina's Lucas Biglia, right, and Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger fight for the ball during the World Cup final soccer match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, July 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Francois Xavier Marit, Pool)
Francois Xavier Marit/Associated Press
Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistJuly 15, 2014

Germany stand as deserving 2014 World Cup champions after their extra-timer victory over Argentina, with Rio de Janeiro playing host to a most spectacular curtain call.

All expectations were matched as substitute Mario Goetze put the finishing touches on the win in the 113th minute, Die Mannschaft claiming their fourth World Cup title as a result.

But before that goal came a long affair fraught with tense moments, and a sample of individual head-to-head battles helped decide Germany's fate.

 

Mats Hummels vs. Gonzalo Higuain

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Gonzalo Higuain has been far from a striking marvel at this World Cup, but the forward has provided a solid platform for Lionel Messi to work off in the absence of Sergio Aguero, who struggled for fitness throughout.

However, Mats Hummels was in fine communication with centre-back partner Jerome Boateng, as well as Manuel Neuer behind him, thus limiting Higuain to just 25 touches in his 78 minutes played, per WhoScored.

QPR midfielder Joey Barton even believes the defender deserved Golden Ball credentials above actual winner Lionel Messi:

As the game raged on, Hummels' fitness became an issue, and he slowed drastically in extra time to rely more and more on his fellow defenders. But the work against Higuain had been done, and Argentina's leading man up top had been muted as a result.

 

Bastian Schweinsteiger vs. Lucas Biglia

Completing all four of his attempted tackles, Bastian Schweinsteiger went above and beyond in producing the kind of performance that Lucas Biglia wishes he was capable of.

Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

The Germany talisman had little choice, too, considering Sami Khedira's last-minute injury, which saw Christoph Kramer enter the fray, meant that Bayern Munich's leader had an even more important role to play.

As Squawka's Sanjit Atwal illustrates, it was in this part of the pitch that much of the fixture was won and lost:

Biglia's defensive priorities make him a potentially dangerous opponent in some circumstances, but against an opposing midfield so balanced in approach, his weakness and shortcomings were exploited severely.

 

Benedikt Hoewedes vs. Ezequiel Lavezzi

Benedikt Hoewedes might be considered a contender for best left-back at the World Cup by some, and while he doesn't provide the same drama that others in the position may, he's been nothing if not consistent.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 13:  Benedikt Hoewedes of Germany challenges Ezequiel Lavezzi of Argentina during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Mat
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

And it's not as though the challenges facing him have been easy ones either, with Paris Saint-Germain's Ezequiel Lavezzi attempting to play the role of tormentor in Rio.

It didn't go all too well, and the Argentinian managed just 22 touches, according to WhoScored, the least of any player on the pitch and less than half of what goalkeeper Sergio Romero managed.

Granted, that wasn't all of Hoewedes' doing, but the one clear drop in speed that Alejandro Sabella's men might have thought to exploit turned out to be just another brick wall, this one from Schalke.

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