ARGENTINA 0-1 GERMANY
AFTER EXTRA TIME
SUNDAY 13TH JULY – RIO DE JANIERO
Germany secured their fourth World Cup triumph as they edged out Argentina in a dramatic final on Sunday night writes Brad Smith.
After a goalless, but pulsating 90 minutes, it was left to Mario Gotze to fire home a superb effort in extra-time to separate the two sides.
There were problems before the start for the Germans, Khedira having to be replaced by Kramer after an injury in the warm-up, handing the 23 year old his first competitive start.
End-to-end from the start, Argentina pressed early on and the lively Lavezzi found Higuain who dragged an effort wide just four minutes in. They were happy to sit back and attack on the counter, and it was nearly the man in the spotlight, Lionel Messi, exploiting Mats Hummels as he broke into the area, but failed to find anyone with his cross.
It was a fantastic start by Sabella’s side, but they had to be cautious of the ever impressive Germans, who then went close when a teasing cross by Lahm just evaded the head of Miroslav Klose.
Christoph Kramer was then in the wars, colliding with Garay’s shoulder, a clash which forced him off a ten minutes later, to be replaced by Andre Schurrle. The Argentinians continued their onslaught on the counter, but it was a gift from Toni Kroos that nearly handed them the initiative. A header back the goalkeeper was woefully short, and straight into the path of Higuain, whose shot was dragged painfully wide.
It was certainly not the Madrid man’s day. On the half-hour mark, he turned a cross into the net, only to see the effort flagged for offside – not before he wheeled away in celebration though.
Die Mannschaft didn’t look at the races, Schweinsteiger and Howedes in the book for poor challenges, but Argentina still could not capitalise. Messi broke into the box after 40 minutes, but his final ball was poor, as the efficient German defence stayed strong.
They reacted to that scare though, and substitute Schurrle saw a shot saved before Messi again went close, but the chance of the match came in injury time for Low’s side. Howedes found himself unmarked from a corner six yards out, but could only watch as his header crashed back off the post, before Muller was flagged for offside.
The game did not settle after half-time, and the man in the limelight, Lionel Messi, again went close, but he saw his shot end the wrong side of the post with Neuer beaten. The goalkeeper certainly wasn’t beaten a few minutes later though when he came rushing out of goal to punch, not without taking out Higuain in the process. He was perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch, and the Munich keeper was just as surprised as everyone when he walked away with a free-kick.
It was getting feisty, with challenges flying in, Aguero upending Schweinsteiger and receiving a yellow as we entered the last half an hour. A winner didn’t look like arriving though, the final shot letting both teams down, summed up when Messi went on a dazzling run only to fire wide from the edge of the area.
Germany had the next chance, though Howedes was hardly the man you’d want 10 yards out, as he dallied and fell, leaving the South Americans to clear. It was their turn to press and Toni Kroos was next on hand, finding space in the D, only to drag his shot wide as we ticked into the 82nd minute.
It was a third straight World Cup to go to extra-time, and few would’ve disagreed it was the fair outcome, with penalties looking a massive possibility.
Both teams looked to be completely drained, though somehow the tempo stayed high, with both teams actively seeking that all important goal.
Andre Schurrle – who scored early in extra-time vs Algeria – nearly recreated that in the Maracana, smashing a shot at Romero from eight yards out just a minute in. Aguero then broke at the other end, though his cross into the area found no-one.
It was a game that could’ve been won from the bench, and Palacio had a glorious chance, though could only chip wide with Neuer racing out. The full-blooded battle continued though, which Schweinsteiger felt the brunt of when Aguero caught hi, with a stray arm, before Mascherano made a questionable tackle whilst already holding a yellow card.
Two substitutes then combined to swing the balance into the favour of Germany. Schurrle raced down the left, and his ball to Mario Gotze was chested superbly, before directing a volley past Romero to send the European contingent into raptures.
Seven minutes remained and there were flashbacks to four years ago, a 116th minute goal from Iniesta securing a Spanish win, though the Argentinians had more time to react here.
However, that goal heaped more weight onto the shoulders of Messi and co. and after a draining 113 minutes, it wasn’t going to easy.
One final chance remained, a glittering run by Messi saw him hacked down, and he dusted himself off to take the free kick – only to smash the ball high, wide, and not at all handsome. It was the last action of the game, as the referee called time on a thrilling 20th World Cup final, to the delight of Joachim Low and his German squad.
After a 7-1 humiliation of Brazil, many expected them to go on and lift the cup, though a superb performance by Argentina made for a cracking, even final, one that had to be decided by a wonder strike from Gotze.
ARGENTINA: Romero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo, Pérez (Gago 86), Mascherano, Biglia, Lavezzi (Aguero 46), Higuaín (Palacio 78), Messi.
BOOKINGS: Mascherano 64, Aguero 65.
GERMANY: Neuer, Lahm, Hummels, Boateng, Höwedes, Schweinsteiger, Kramer (Schürrle 32), Müller, Kroos, Özil (Mertesacker 120), Klose (Götze 88).
GOALS: Götze 113.
BOOKINGS: Schweinsteiger 29, Höwedes 34.
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