European juggernauts Germany were crowned World Champions after defeating Argentina at the Estadio do Maracana in a gritty and hard fought match that would need extra time to settle matters. It may not have been the match that many wanted to see, but it cannot be argued that the result was too harsh.
It is very easy to feel remorse for Lionel Messi. Though voted Player of the Tournament, it would be zero consolation to the Argentine who came so close but yet so far to adding the final trophy to his list of personnel accolades that rivals the Great Wall. Despite his efforts and the efforts of his team mates, Argentina were unable to defeat Germany despite carving out the better chances over the course of the match.
In classic fashion, and a hallmark of so many teams before them, this German team found a way in a match that was their toughest test. Though they did stutter, they did not stumble and fall, and they became the first European team to win the World Cup in South America.
Argentina (4-2-3-1): Romero; Rojo, Garay, Demichelis, Zabaleta; Mascherano, Biglia; Perez, Messi, Lavezzi; Higuain
Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Howedes, Hummel, Boateng, Lahm; Kramer, Schweinsteiger; Ozil, Kroos, Muller; Klose
Fears of Argentina parking the bus against the German’s were dashed early through multiple foray’s into the German third of the pitch – they did defend deep and look to counter through who else but Messi, who showed the German’s a clean pair of heals down the right on numerous occasions. Unsurprisingly, Argentina identified the German left-flank as the weak point in their lines, and Messi smelled blood from the off.
Despite dominant possession by Germany, the Argentina back-line was well drilled and kept their shape brilliantly in the first 35minutes. At the other end, Argentina produced two very good scoring chance, but both were fluffed by Gonzalo Higuain. The first chance saw Higuain break alone into the box after a terrible giveaway by Toni Kroos but his effort was dragged seven yards wide with only Neuer to beat, and the second saw him beat Neuer but he was over a yard offside before Lavezzi’s ball found him. Alejandro Sabella’s ability to adjust his tactics based off his opponent was coming to the fore yet again for South American side – Germany was struggling to create anything going forward.
Germany nearly found a late breakthrough through Benedikt Howedes, but his header crashed off the post and then off the thigh of an offside Thomas Muller. It was the best chance of the half for the European side, and both teams would go into the break level at 0-0, but Argentina certainly were on the front foot and looking the better of the two.
The opening exchanges of the second stanza would mirror the first almost exact, and Messi nearly found the opener for Argentina after he did so well to get behind the German defense yet again, but this time on the left – his low effort across goal would skid just wide of the mark, but still and yet, Argentina were on the front foot.
The clock struck 70, and with just twenty minutes of normal time remaining and either side really threatening consistently after the flurry in the beginning of the second half, you just had to start to wonder that yet another match in the knockout stage of this summers tournament would be decided in extra-time, or worse. Both teams were now settled in their individual defensive set ups as if it w France circa 1915 – neither side wanted to lose this match late on.
In a bid to further the likelihood of a coincidental skyrocketing of the number of heart conditions developed world wide, neither Germany nor Argentina could find the breakthrough in normal time. A match that was billed to be one of the better ones in recent memory had certainly failed to show up in regards to entertainment in the first 90-minutes. But, in truth, winning the World Cup is not about entertainment in the end, and you just have to wonder if the potentiality of penalty-kicks had begun to trickle into the minds of players from both sides.
An early chance by Andre Schurrle and another fluffed chance by Argentina (this time by Rodrigo Palacio) was all that the first 15-minutes of extra-time could offer. In truth, it was more akin to a war of attrition than a football match – tired legs, aching muscles, mental lapses, but still both sides remained resilient in their quest for footballing immortality.
The 113th minute would finally see the breakthrough that the match so desperately needed, when Andre Schurrle did brilliantly to rampage down the left and play a peach of a cross to a wide open Mario Gotze who would slot past Romero to put Germany 1-0 up with just seven minutes to go. It would bring Argentina to life in the final five minutes, but Gotze’s strike would be the last major action of the match, and Germany would lift their fourth World cup trophy in their illustrious history – the machine prevailed.
Man of the Match
Bastian Schweinsteiger – The Bayern Munich midfielder put in a brilliant midfield performance that embodied the will of a team and a nation to capture their long-awaited fourth World Cup. It cannot be understated that Schweinsteiger had nothing left to give in an all-action display that would in the end drive his countrymen forward. He did not get a goal or an assist, but Schweinsteiger’s will to work and refuse to surrender was the building block which Germany would build upon.