Germany win the World Cup 2014: Germany defeat Argentina to lift trophy in Brazil
Germany 1 - 0 Argentina (ET)
Germany have won the World Cup after defeating Argentina 1 - 0 in Brazil.
Germany were crowned world champions for the fourth time thanks to a stunning extra-time winner from super sub Mario Gotze.
Argentina were preparing for a penalty shoot-out in the Maracana, but in the 113th minute Gotze chested down Andre Schurrle's cross and volleyed home to cap a historic victory for Joachim Low's men.
Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Rodrigo Palacio all spurned good chances to give Argentina the win in the spiritual home of their fierce rivals Brazil.
Neither Germany nor Argentina could break the deadlock in the Maracana as a tense World Cup final went into extra-time.
Lionel Messi, tipped to star in the Rio final, dragged a good chance wide in the second half.
His team-mate Gonzalo Higuain was guilty of an even worse miss before the break.
The Napoli striker was sent through on goal after a big mistake by Toni Kroos, but he also dragged his effort wide of Manuel Neuer's goal.
Benedikt Howedes rattled Argentina's woodwork at the end of the first half, and his compatriots were also guilty of sloppy play in the Argentina area late on.
With neither side able to find the net in, the game went to extra-time.
After a star-studded concert involving Colombian pop star Shakira and Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen ended, the atmosphere soon began to grow inside the Maracana.
The giant Brazil flag that stretched across the pitch was taken away and thereafter the Maracana felt like Buenos Aires.
The Argentinians inside this famous stadium mocked the hosts for their humiliating semi-final defeat and the volume increased further after the first whistle was blown.
The ball flew from one end to the other in an entertaining opening quarter.
Higuain whistled a low shot wide early on. Messi then burst into the box, but his pull back towards Enzo Perez was cut out by Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Miroslav Klose just failed to reach a cross from Philipp Lahm.
It was an exciting opening 15 minutes played out amid a booming atmosphere.
The game came to a brief halt when Christoph Kramer, a late replacement for Sami Khedira, took a shoulder to the head from Ezequiel Garay.
Higuain then missed his glorious chance. Kroos headed the ball over his own back four towards Higuain, who watched the ball drop perfectly on to his right foot.
Despite being two yards ahead of the nearest defender, the Napoli striker dragged his shot wide. Boss Alejandro Sabella was stunned. Substitute Sergio Aguero was so embarrassed for his team-mate that he pulled his training top over his head.
Higuain thought he had made amends when he tucked away Lavezzi's cross, but he was offside
Kramer, still clearly feeling the effects of the clash with Garay, hobbled off and was replaced by Andre Schurrle, who tested Sergio Romero from 18 yards.
The first half came to a dramatic conclusion.
Messi squeezed the ball past Neuer, but Jerome Boateng cleared off the line.
And Benedikt Howedes hit a post with a header from Kroos' corner.
Sabella brought Aguero on for Lavezzi at the break.
Less than 90 seconds after the restart Messi found a way through the Germany defence, but he dragged his shot a foot wide.
Neuer had to revert to the sweeper role he performed against Algeria as he came right to the edge of his area to punch a long ball by Pablo Zabaleta, taking Higuain in the process.
Higuain wanted a penalty, but the referee waved play on.
Thomas Muller headed tamely at Romero down the other end. Mesut Ozil spurned another chance when he mis-controlled a Schurrle cross deep inside the box.
The started to get scrappy. Javier Mascherano and Aguero were booked for dangerous tackles.
Schurrle was the next man to mis-control, the ball running away from him as he entered the area.
As the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, both teams started to take fewer risks and extra-time seemed inevitable.
Even a moment of magic from Messi was foiled by Neuer who came racing off his line to smother the ball after the Argentina captain has skipped past four defenders.
Sabella made his second change, bringing on Rodrigo Palacio for the mis-firing Higuain.
With nine minutes left Kroos placed a low shot wide, much to the annoyance of his coach Joachim Low, who was also annoyed at a pitch invader soon after.
Argentina brought Fernando Gago on for Perez and Miroslav Klose's World Cup career ended when he was substituted for Mario Gotze.
Gotze sent a weak shot into Romero's arms and the game then petered out until the referee blew to signal the end of 90 minutes.
Sabella tried to fire his men up with a motivational team-talk just before extra-time.
His team were almost a goal down soon after, though, when Muller returned Schurrle's pass and he fired a strong drive which Romero did well to parry.
Argentina had their big chance moments later when Mats Hummels failed to clear a routine cross. The ball fell for Palacio, but his lob went wide.
Aguero drew blood from under Schweinsteiger's right eye as they jumped for the ball.
Then the killer moment came that won the Germans the World Cup.
Unlike many of his team-mates, Schurrle still had plenty of energy left in the tank.
He raced down the left-hand side past three Argentinians and crossed for Gotze, who cushioned the ball on his chest and brilliantly swept the ball past Romero from close range.
It was a wonderful strike worthy of winning any tournament. The Argentinians inside the Maracana fell silent. Their party had been gate-crashed.
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A spell-binding World Cup, a fabulous final and a sumptuous goal to settle it for the best team in the tournament: truly we have been blessed.
Whether the watching figure of Christ the Redeemer on the hill-top overlooking the Maracana had anything to do with it is a matter for the theological debate, but Heaven knows this was a wonderful end to this marvellous Copa das Copas, the World Cup of all World Cups.
The spectre of penalties was looming distressingly large, when Mario Gotze, looking every inch the baby-faced assassin, produced a moment of true genius to secure Germany a 1-0 win and their fourth World Cup, and deservedly so.
It was pure agony for Argentina and their brilliant captain Lionel Messi of course, and their fans had arrived from the south in their tens of thousands, driving a 3,000 kilometres journey that took 30 hours. Only a small minority had tickets, but the rest were content to merely be in this city of their mortal enemies to witness the chance of Messi joining Diego Maradona in the ranks of the immortals.
"Brasil how does it feel," they sung in the fan fests and streets of Rio, glorying in the moment before kick-off, while those in German white waited quieter but expectant: success such a familiar feeling.
After such a World Cup, there was a desperate need for a satisfying climax, and the trepidation that this would be a suffocating match soon vanished.
Joachim Low's Germany were full of enterprise and vigour, taking the game to their opponents, while Argentina were coiled and calculating, like a snake waiting to strike.
Inside the Maracana, the tension among the fans was palpable. Argentina have been among the noisiest this tournament and though blue-and-white stripes dominated the stadium - those Brazilians who had had tickets appeared to have cashed them in - the occasion seemed almost too much.
This was no repeat of the dreary semi-final against Holland however. The fetters that had chafed Messi in that match were removed, and he was like quicksilver - slippery, unpredictable and almost unmanageable.
His speed was at times dramatic, often embarrassing the stalwart but sometimes static German defence.
One, twice, up to five times he threatened, but each time he was thwarted by some last-ditch interventions. His best chance, at the start of the second half, was created by a perfectly-timed run on to Lucas Biglia's ball, but his finish was a shade off perfection and, almost in slow motion, it drifted an agonising inch or so wide.
This was a day for heroes, the youngest being Christoph Kramer, thrust in at the last minute having played just 12 minutes of the World Cup after Sami Khedira injured himself in the warm-up. Kramer was excellent but lasted only half-an-hour before a blow to the head suggested the c-word - concussion - and ended his match.
It was day for villains too. Gonzalo Higuain may never recover from his miss midway through the first half.
Toni Kroos, looking to become the first player born in the former East Germany to lift the World Cup, lost his bearings and sent a header back over his central defenders. Higuain, trotting back, suddenly found himself with only Manuel Neuer to beat.
He tried to take it in his stride and lash it home first time but dragged it horribly wide. Argentina's reaction spoke volumes. Javier Mascherano put his head in his hands, on the bench Sergio Aguero put his shirt over his face. When Higuain did get the ball in the net, his celebrations of rapturous relief were cut short by an offside flag.
Andre Schurrle, so clinical against Brazil, nearly made them pay. Thomas Muller slipped his man, cut it back for Schurrle and Sergio Romero made the first save of the match, diving to his right.
Mesut Ozil, at times inspired, executed a sweet drag-back and set up Kroos, but the man who has been Germany's player of the tournament for once failed to make the best of it.
A treat of a first half settled down to into rather more routine fare.
Only Messi looked in a league of his own, and it took two outrageously-good challenges from Jerome Boateng to halt him in his tracks.
There was further agony at either end, that decisive, stroke proving elusive as the game inched towards penalties.
A shoot-out would have been a dismal way to end five weeks that have thrilled the world and for that reason alone it was welcome relief when Schurrle drove forward and found Gotze, who controlled with his chest and struck an angled volley to break 100million Argentine hearts.
What a World Cup it has been, and what a way to end it.
Belfast Telegraph Digital