Sunday, at the historic Maracana Stadium, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the German National Football Team made history defeating Argentina by 1-0, with a Mario Gotze golazo at the 113th minute of extra time. The Germans thus add a fourth cup to their trophy trove, tying with Italy and placing Die Mannschaft second only to Brazil’s five wins.
Germany’ sports magazine Kicker had a photo of the German team on the winner’s podium, holding the cup and had as a headline: “Thanks Gotze: Germany is world champion for a fourth time!” Argentina’s daily La Prensa said: “Argentina left its all on the pitch but Germany becomes world champion.” Brazil’s O Globo said: “Germany is four-times a champ!!!!”
The teams, minus di Maria for Argentina and Khedira for Germany, fielded their top line ups from the semifinals: Germany—Neuer, Howedes, Hummels, Kramer, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Klose, Muller, Lahm, Kroos and Boateng; Argentina—Romero, Garay, Zabaleta, Biglia, Perez, Higuain, Messi, Mascherano, Demichelis, Rojo, and Lavezzi. Officiating the final was Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli. The weather was sunny and ranged in the humid mid-70s-F.
The result was just in that Germany was the tournament’s best team throughout the competition. The match was a lot more even and seemed at time to tilt to the South Americans as their eleven-man defense would break up into a three man counterattacking force that put the Germans under pressure all game long.
At different times throughout the game Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Rodrigo Palacio had the favorable Argentine result gifted on a silver platter. Higuain was left one-on-one against Manuel Neuer when woozy Christoph Kramer headed back toward his own goal. But the striker kicked wide of goal.
Lionel Messi had two chances from inside the box, on the left side, with only Neuer to beat, and he too hit past the far post. Palacio was also played in one-on-one with Neuer but managed to have his chip attempt miss the goal altogether.
The strategic stalemate, which saw Germany control 64% of possession and Argentina defend for 85%-95% of the game and then try to outrun and out dribble the Germans, seemed to work for both teams. Neither left their scripted roles but only Joaquim Low’s bench was deep enough to bring on a Gotze to break up the logjam with fresh legs, athleticism, and great technical skill.
The referee was barely passable in this game also as he caught a number of calls but missed the Argentine defender’s shoulder to the head of Kramer that knocked him out of the final, and Mascherano’s foul on Ozil that would have sustained a long German attack early in the first period of extra time, or the three fouls on Muller that would have resulted in penalties if they had been called.
The evening of yellow cards again took place, as it has with all games between powerhouses, as the Germans were called for fouls the Argentines were allowed to commit in the first half while the South Americans were quickly called for yellows in the second, at times when they were not earned. The teams ended up having a fraction of their actual fouls called Argentina 28 committed and 16 called and Germany 18 committed and 20 called.
The cup ended with the expected result but with a series of surprises added for good measure to ensure the consistent thread of the tournament concluded unbroken. The Golden Ball for the tournament’s top player was given to Messi, who was not anywhere near his self in the latter half of the cup. He had a good tournament, as did several others, but he never reached the level he does when being fed a steady diet of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas assists. Perhaps a better choice might have been a goalkeeper, like Costa Rica’s Navas, or Colombia’s sensation Rodriquez, or Germany’s goal-scoring defender Hummels.
The Golden Glove for the best goalkeeper did not go to either of the cup’s two outstanding goalies, Mexico’s Ochoa or Costa Rica’s Navas, but to the champion’s Neuer. At least the Golden Boot went to the top scorer, James Rodriquez of Colombia, with six goals. Thomas Muller came in second to Messi in the best player category and second in the scoring race to Rodriguez. France’s Paul Pogba was voted the Young Player of the tourney and Juan Zuniga’s Colombia, inexplicably, got the Fair Play Award.
We will deconstruct World Cup 2014 next week, but for now it is goodbye Brazil and on to Russia 2018—see you then.