World Cup 2014 - The Finals
Oscar, scorer of Brazil's consolation goal was distraught
Brazil v Germany - Semi-Final
July 8th 2014 - Belo Horizonte
12 Julio César, 23 Maicon, 06 Marcelo, 17 Luiz Gustavo, 04 David Luiz, 13 Dante (Booked), 20 Bernard, 05 Fernandinho (Paulinho - 45'), 09 Fred (Willian - 69'), 11 Oscar, 07 Hulk (Ramires - 45')
01 Jefferson, 02 Dani Alves, 08 Paulinho, 14 Maxwell, 15 Henrique, 16 Ramires, 18 Hernanes, 19 Willian, 21 Jô, 22 Victor
01 Neuer, 16 Lahm, 04 Höwedes, 07 Schweinsteiger, 20 Boateng, 05 Hummels (Mertesacker - 45'), 06 Khedira (Draxler - 76'), 18 Kroos, 11 Klose (Schürrle - 58'), 13 Müller, 08 Özil
02 Großkreutz, 03 Ginter, 09 Schürrle, 10 Podolski, 12 Zieler, 14 Draxler, 15 Durm, 17 Mertesacker, 19 Götze, 21 Mustafi, 22 Weidenfeller, 23 Kramer
Where do you start with writing a report about this game? I have seen better matches, more exciting matches, bigger thrashings, bigger upsets. But I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite as earth shattering in a match of such importance. It reminded me of an episode of Game of Thrones - if you don’t watch that show, it’s one of those where Anyone Can Die, no matter where conventional storytelling tropes indicate that the narrative for a character is going, they’ll get brutally and violently killed just when you least expect it. That was what happened in this game, from the moment Brazil were awarded the hosting duties, the story was set up for them to get redemption for 1950 and probably beat Argentina in the final. Even the loss of Neymar just added a bit more against-the-odds drama to it. Then this happened.
The tone was set early on. Brazil were trying long diagonal balls which weren’t coming off, while Germany looked much sharper and showed greater control in the midfield, Khedira in particular looking in the mood with some early darts forward that Brazil were struggling to contain, Brazil’s left side appearing vulnerable. Marcelo had a rough time of it all night.
Brazil had been criticised previously for their aggressive tactics and the way that they had used tactical fouls to stop opponents from playing. That didn’t happen in this match, because they couldn’t get close enough to the Germans to try it, exemplified by the first goal. Khedira made another run down the Brazil left and Fernandinho (I think) tried to pull him back on the half way line but couldn’t get him. The exposed Marcelo managed to smuggle it behind for a corner, from which the Germans scored. There was a blocking move off the training ground, but still that’s no excuse for the ball falling at the feet of Muller 8 yards out, where he carefully finished. You sometimes see unmarked headers from that range, but rarely low shots.
Brazil kept things quiet for 10 minutes, then we saw arguably the most incredible 6 minutes of football in the history of the game as Germany added 4 further goals. There was a distinct theme to these goals, which summed up the difference between the sides. All four were proper team goals, showing teamwork of the highest quality and there was not a hint of selfishness about any of the play. It was a masterpiece of decision making in attacking areas. Contrast this with the ineffective individualism shown by Brazil- more on that later.
So the goals. Number 2 was scored by Klose, after a lovely flick by Muller. Klose needed 2 goes at it (Cesar might have pushed the first effort to the side rather than straight back to him) but made himself the World Cup’s highest ever goalscorer. Number 3 was a powerful low shot by Kroos after a low cross again from Brazil’s ragged left. At this point we saw an image of the crowd looking stunned, but arguably the worst of the goals was immediately to come from Brazil’s point of view as Fernandinho dwells on the ball and is robbed by Kroos, who exchanges passes with Khedira before side footing in. We see an image of a small boy crying in the crowd and I come up with my Game of Thrones analogy for the match report, as things turn farcical with the way that Brazil lose any semblance of being a top international side. They give up in a most unprofessional manner, rather than shutting up shop they seem to think that they can restore pride by getting back into it somehow. Hulk is the first to perform a ridiculous dive, a trick later pulled by Oscar, Maicon and Fred. None of them receive yellow cards. Number 5 comes shortly after, as a Hummels run from the back sees David Luiz abandon his post entirely and step into the midfield in a vain and unnecessary attempt to win the ball, which is sent into the gaping hole for Khedira to perform another one-two with Ozil and this time score himself. Fortunately, David Luiz learns from his error and is never caught out positionally again in the match. On reflection, that last sentence might not quite be true, to be fair. As the team sways without leadership, Phil Scolari stands on the touchline and yells twice at a player to get his attention- having done so he offers no instructions whatsoever, but what can he do now, it’s way too late.
Half time comes with boos ringing around the stadium and the Germans preparing for the final. The second half is not really a contest between 2 teams, it’s more of a psychological experiment on the broken Brazilian team. It’s particularly fascinating to watch the implosion of David Luiz. A player of clear yet flawed talent, he shows all the worst sides of his game here, but we’ll come to those soon.
The first ten minutes of the second half actually brings the best football Brazil play all night, they get forward a bit and Neuer makes some good saves from Oscar and then Paulinho (twice). But it’s not long before David Luiz makes a brainless back-pass which Muller latches onto and should score from. Germany are saving themselves for the final by now, sitting back, knocking the ball around with contempt when they have it, easily repelling the desperate Brazil attacks when they don’t. David Luiz continues his attempt to make the worst ever performance of all time, playing as if he’s in some kind of free attacking role. Germany are actually wasteful when they get a three on one after another preposterous run forward.
It takes until 69 minutes before the inevitable happens and Germany get a sixth. It’s like a training game against some traffic cones, ball watching Brazilians leaving Schurrle to side foot in. Ten minutes later Schurrle gets the seventh, a simple ball through smashed into the roof of the net. Guess which Brazilian was doing a token job of ‘marking’, by standing vaguely near the goalscorer but making no attempt to track him or tackle? The closing stages are like a funeral, the crowd applauding Germany, while still managing to boo Fred even after he is substituted following an inept performance, when he appears on the TV screen. Oscar gets one back right at the end, but it’s no consolation.
What about Neymar and Thiago Silva? No attacker could have done anything about the outcome of this game, Neymar is lucky not to have been associated with it. Thiago Silva was missed, in the sense that he might have been able to do something about the capitulation and kept the score respectable, but the gulf was bigger than any individual player.
As for Germany, they were immaculate and even with these opponents it takes brilliance to make it look so easy. Now the pressure turns on them- as Rio Ferdinand pointed out, this result will count for nothing and be a frustration if they do not lift the trophy. They will be brimming with confidence however.
Lastly, an important point- let’s not retrospectively diminish the impact of this result by pretending we all knew Germany would win and that it was always going to be a matter of how much. Going into the match, the bookmakers had each team with equal chances. Brazil had shown little flair in the tournament so far, but at home and with momentum (they did overcome two good sides in Chile and Colombia, by whatever means) they were a fearsome opponent in theory. Germany meanwhile had needed extra time to beat Algeria and then looked less than fluid against France. This was truly a jaw dropping result. Perhaps on reflection, Brazil did well to get this far in the tournament with such a limited and fragile squad? They’ll probably wish they’d lost on penalties to Chile now, and avoided this era-defining result.
- Oscar 90′
- Müller 11′
- Klose 23′
- Kroos 24′, 26′
- Khedira 29′
- Schürrle 69′, 79′
Ref: Marco Rodríguez
- Brazil 47%
- Germany 53%
- Brazil 18
- Germany 14
- Brazil 8
- Germany 10
- Brazil 7
- Germany 5
- Brazil 11
- Germany 14
A rather more interesting World Cup semi-final between The Netherlands and Argentina this year
(The Womens Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014)
Netherlands v Argentina - Semi-Final
July 9th 2014 - Sao Paulo
01 Cillessen, 15 Kuyt, 05 Blind, 04 Martins Indi (Booked) (Janmaat - 45'), 02 Vlaar, 03 de Vrij, 20 Wijnaldum, 06 de Jong (Clasie - 62'), 10 Sneijder, 09 van Persie (Huntelaar - 96' Booked), 11 Robben
07 Janmaat, 08 de Guzmán, 12 Verhaegh, 13 Veltman, 14 Kongolo, 16 Clasie, 17 Lens, 19 Huntelaar, 21 Depay, 22 Vorm, 23 Krul
01 Romero, 04 Zabaleta, 16 Rojo, 14 Mascherano, 15 Demichelis (Booked), 02 Garay, 08 Pérez (Palacio - 81'), 06 Biglia, 09 Higuaín (Agüero - 82'), 10 Messi, 22 Lavezzi (Rodríguez - 101')
03 Campagnaro, 05 Gago, 11 Rodríguez, 12 Orión, 13 Fernández, 17 Fernández, 18 Palacio, 19 Álvarez, 20 Agüero, 21 Andujar, 23 Basanta
Which teams will turn up here? The Holland team that slaughtered Spain in the Group matches or that which was held 0-0 by Costa Rica? Argentina have had their drab moments and have relied on flashes of brilliance from Messi. Pre-match, Holland appear full of confidence, as usual; Argentina, believe that Messi will make the difference that will get them through to the final.
With so much at stake, I don’t suppose that it was a surprise that both teams didn’t want to lose the match, but this was at the expense of not looking to win it, so a drab affair with little or no goal action was the result. A mis-directed shot from Sneijder, a Messi free-kick hit straight at Cillesen and Garay miss were about all the excitement in the first half. Well, that and the sight of a dazed Mascherano after a pretty severe clonk on his head!
The second half wasn’t any better; after the goal-fest of Germany and Brazil the previous night this match was a real anti-climax. If you wanted to look for some clever play you had to concentrate on the defensive play, notably Vlaar, Mascherano (once his head cleared), De Jong (shackled to Messi at times) before he was subbed by Classie and, of course, Zabaleta. Little or nothing happening with the ball gave this watcher a chance to see how teams operating at this level use movement off the ball to drag their opponents around and so make space for teammates.
Messi was, mainly, a disappointment it has to be said. But he wasn’t the only one. Having seen all of the Argentine games in the tournament, I thought that this was the most cohesive their defence had looked all month - they brought Palacio and Aguero on with ten minutes of normal time remaining to add some guile and hope to their attack but with no success. RVP was a disappointment too, Robben only threatened occasionally - once drawing a marvellous tackle from Mascherano. But overall a very disappointing 90 minutes with few redeeming features.
30 minutes of extra time didn’t improve matters - Palacio could have scored, so could Rodriguez and Kuyt too; but they weren’t edge of the seat misses; just predictably dull, off-target, weak or shambolic attempts.
And so to penalties; Vlaar and Sneijder missed for Holland but it would be harsh to blame them for the Dutch defeat; Holland hadn’t managed a shot on target for 120 minutes of the match. Van Gall pondered on the fact that he taught Romero how to face penalties when they were both at AZ Alkmaar; newspapers reported on how two Argentinian supporters had died watching the match in their home towns. The match itself wasn’t likely to make any headlines.
Argentina Win 4-2 on Penalties
Ref: Cüneyt Çakir
- Netherlands 56%
- Argentina 44%
- Netherlands 7
- Argentina 8
- Netherlands 1
- Argentina 4
- Netherlands 4
- Argentina 4
- Netherlands 15
- Argentina 10
Romero saved from Sneijder and ...
.... Ron Vlaar in the penalty shoot out
Van Persie (left) scored the first from a penalty, Blind (No.5 right) scored the second
3rd/4th Place Play-Off
Brazil 0-3 Netherlands
July 12th 2014 - Brasilia
12 Julio César, 23 Maicon, 14 Maxwell, 17 Luiz Gustavo (Fernandinho - 45' (Booked) ), 03 Thiago Silva (Booked), 04 David Luiz, 16 Ramires (Hulk - 73'), 08 Paulinho (Hernanes - 57'), 21 Jô, 19 Willian, 11 Oscar (Booked)
01 Jefferson, 02 Dani Alves, 05 Fernandinho, 06 Marcelo, 07 Hulk, 09 Fred, 13 Dante, 15 Henrique, 18 Hernanes, 20 Bernard, 22 Victor
01 Cillessen (Vorm - 93'), 15 Kuyt, 05 Blind (Janmaat - 70'), 04 Martins Indi, 02 Vlaar, 03 de Vrij, 16 Clasie (Veltman - 90'), 08 de Guzmán (Booked), 20 Wijnaldum, 09 van Persie, 11 Robben (Booked)
07 Janmaat, 12 Verhaegh, 13 Veltman, 14 Kongolo, 17 Lens, 19 Huntelaar, 21 Depay, 22 Vorm, 23 Krul
This whole 3rd/4th place play-off thing, I mean, what's the point? For one of the teams, it is always going to mean finishing on a real low, by losing two games in a row and surely wiping out any good feeling of having got to the World Cup Semi-finals in the first place.
This game was even worse from the point of view of the hosts Brazil, not only did they get knocked out by Germany and conceding a whopping seven goals, but their misery was compounded by losing again to the Netherlands and conceding another three goals.
Just some statistics to chew on that I saw on the BBC website :
- This is the first time since 1940 that Brazil have lost consecutive matches on home soil.
- Brazil have failed to score in two games of the World Cup finals since 1978.
- Prior to Brazil conceding 14 goals this year the last team to concede 14 goals or more in a World Cup finals was Belgium in 1986.
- This is only the second time in the past ten World Cup third place play-offs that a team has failed to score. Bulgaria achieved the same feat in 1994.
Pretty damned dismal. The sort of thing England can only aspire to, but we expect more of Brazil though.
Although this game did not descend to the depths of the drubbing administered in the Semi-Final by the Germans, this was equally depressing, as it only served to confirm what was so wrong with the Brazilian team.
After the Semi, Scolari and the team dismissed it as a freakish one-off. This game confirmed that it was no such thing and that there is a lot wrong with Brazilian football at present. The defence looked completely clueless and the forward play did not look a whole lot better.
Within 16 minutes Brazil were two goals down and I got the distinct impression that the Dutch were content to back off. Although the Brazilians toiled hard, without Neymar they lack any sort of creative spark, although I have to admit that the referee did not have a good game.
For the two international managers there are sharply contrasting futures. Brazil's Scolari will undoubtably resign, but the damage to his 2002 winning legacy has been done. For van Gaal Manchester United beckons and he ended on a winning note.
It all started promisingly for Brazil as there was so much pre-match emotion, especially when Neymar took his place amongst the substitutes. The singing of the National Anthem made the hairs stand on the back of the neck, as the singing continued long after the music had stopped.
That was as good as it got for Brazil, as within two minutes van Persie had played Robben through and Silva desperately pulled him back. It seemed to be outside the area - just, but surely Silva had to go, as it was clearly a goal scoring opportunity. No, instead the referee pointed to the spot and waved a yellow card at Silva. Bizarre. Van Persie then gave a masterclass in how to take a penalty and the ball was dispatched into the top right corner of the net without any drama.
The predictable then happened, with Brazil pushing forward for an equaliser and the Dutch caught them on the counter attack, proving the Brazilians had learnt nothing from the previous loss. The inept and hapless David Luiz attempted to head a cross from De Guzman, which he would have been better advised to leave. The ball didn't even get out of the penalty area, but landed at the feet of Daley Blind, who gratefully buried it into the net, past the despairing dive of Julio César.
Just over a quarter of an hour gone and two goals down, the Brazilian fans started to amuse themselves by doing Mexican waves.
Amazingly the Brazilian team pulled themselves together for a while, but only until Oscar collided with Blind in the Dutch Penalty Area and it looked a certain penalty. The referee instead booked Oscar for simulation and that seemed to knock the stuffing out of them.
The third Dutch goal by Wijnaldum in time added on, seemed like a final twist of the knife in the already dead body of Brazilian football. van Gaal and the Dutch team go home with their heads held high, the Brazilians will have to look at what is wrong, rather than to point fingers.
- van Persie 3′ (pen)
- Blind 16′
- Wijnaldum 90′
Ref: Djamel Haimoudi
- Brazil 58%
- Netherlands 42%
- Brazil 11
- Netherlands 8
- Brazil 2
- Netherlands 4
- Brazil 4
- Netherlands 1
- Brazil 16
- Netherlands 20
Robben may be a brilliant player, but he does rather too much of this for my liking
A moment that Mario Götze will remember for the rest of his life - scoring the match winner in a World Cup Final
Germany 1-0 Argentina
July 13th 2014 - Rio de Janeiro
One month on and all the matches bar this one had been played. The Maracana welcomed Argentina and Germany to Brazil’s capital in an interesting clash of styles:
- North v South
- Old World v New
- Europe v Americas
- The best team against the best player?
Germany was designated as the home side and wore white. Argentina changed to a blue strip – similar to that worn when Maradona led them to victory in 1986. Rio was full of Argentinian fans, those lucky enough to be inside the stadium and tens of thousands more in the fan parks. Plenty of German fans were here too. I noticed one message they held aloft: 'We won’t let Argentina win in your home' Presumably most Brazilians fervently hoped that would be the case.
Both sides expected to field their starting line-ups from their semi-finals but in the warm-up Khedeira hurt his calf and was withdrawn. Kramer replaced him – a first competitive start for the Monchengladbach midfielder. The sides emerged either side of the World Cup trophy and lined up to sing their anthems.
1 Neuer, 16 Lahm, 20 Boateng, 5 Hummels, 4 Howedes, 23 Kramer, 18 Croos, 7 Schweinsteiger, 13 Muller, 8 Ozil, 11 Klose
9 Schurrle for 23 (31), 19 Goetze for 11 (88) and 17 Mertesacker for 8 (120)
1 Romero, 4 Zabaleta, 15 Demichelis, 2 Garay, 16 Rojo, 6 Biglia, 14 Mascherano, 8 Perez, 9 Higuain, 10 Messi, 22 Lavezzi
20 Aguero for 22 (46), 18 Palacio for 9 (77) and 5 Gago for 8 (86).
The Italian referee got us underway. There was a brief period where the sides tested each other in midfield. On 2 minutes Muller chased a forward pass and was felled by Rojo giving Germany a presentable free kick outside the box. The ball rebounded from the wall enabling Argentina to break upfield. Lavezzi fed Higuain on the right but his hurried shot across goal went out for a throw.
Germany continually looked to progress down their right with Lahm providing an extra man behind Muller. The forward got free on 5 mins but his cross deflected to Romero. In midfield, Croos then attempted a cross field pass which hit the ref and went out for an Argentina throw. Germany recovered the ball and enjoyed good possession but Argentina seemed content to sit back and let them retain the ball. Things speeded up when Argentina gained possession – Messi won a foot race round the outside of Hummels but Schweinsteiger cut out his cross. Zabaleta was the next to get forward but his overhit pass eluded all-comers.
Argentina were getting forward now. Biglia tried his luck, his shot going off Howedes for a corner. Lavezzi’s first effort was headed behind by Klose. His next was safely claimed by Neuer. Germany then went down their right, Lahm looked for Klose in the box but the attentions of Demichelis caused the striker to misjudge the cross which went harmlessly away.
A foul on Klose allowed Croos to put another free-kick into the box but Zabaleta cleared. Another cross saw Demichelis head it out. Croos’s corner was knocked away but Germany soon recovered possession and attacked down their right. The ball was cleared for a throw. Kramer was lying prostrate on the ground and replays showed he’d been knocked out colliding with Garay.
The youngster eventually rejoined play but on 20 minutes Argentina should have gone ahead. Their initial attack had broken down with the ball cleared into midfield. Inexplicably, Toni Croos rose and headed it back over his defenders to Higuain who was jogging back towards him. The Napoli man turned and hit a shot from the edge of Neuer’s box – but dragged it wide of the post! That was a let off.
Soon Germany were probing down their right wing again. The industrious Lahm aimed a cross at Klose but the defence smuggled it away. Germany were still bossing possession. On 26 mins Schweinsteiger tried to force the issue but his forward pass ran out for a goal kick. A moment later the #7 lobbed a better ball into the area but Klose thought twice about tackling Romero as he raced out to claim it. Germany’s next attack saw Muller caught offside.
The first yellow arrived on 28 mins – Schweinsteiger on Lavezzi. Biglia touched the ball to Messi who dribbled towards goal. The defenders hacked the ball away but Argentina recovered it and put it wide right for Lavezzi. The PSG man curled a peach of a pass behind the defence and Higuain tucked it into the corner. He turned away to his left in celebration. Had he looked the other way he’d have seen the offside flag, correctly, held aloft - another near thing for Germany.
Kramer had spent 10 minutes wandering round in a daze. He was finally replaced on 31 minutes when Schurrle came on to take up residence on the left wing. Ozil moved into a more central position. Shortly afterwards Howedes was yellow-carded for a hack on Zabaleta. Germany were still trying to advance but were being met by stern resistance from some very good Argentine defenders.
On 35 mins Lavezzi and Messi organised a break downfield. Schweinsteiger cleared for a corner which Neuer comfortably claimed. Then Muller tried his luck on the left, broke past Zabaleta and pulled the ball back for Schurrle. The Chelsea man hit the target but Romero saved. Germany continued to press but failed to create clear chances. Then, on 39, Messi broke away beyond his marker. He cut in from the right, took out Neuer but Boateng swept the ball away.
An edge had crept into the game – the referee was obliged to talk to Muller and Rojo after a bout of handbags. On 43, Muller and Ozil create a chance which Romero saved from Croos. In the last minute of the half, Muller’s cross went beyond Klose. Goal kick – and 2 minutes injury time to be played. Germany won a corner which a defender put out. Croos took another and found Howedes barrelling past defenders. He met the cross firmly – and should have scored. Instead his powerful header rebounded off a post to Klose – who was offside. Half time: 0-0.
The Germans were out long before Argentina who brought on Aguero instead of Lavezzi. Argentina started brightly, mounting a series of attacks. Initially Higuain was caught offside. Then Aguero ran onto a through ball but was outpaced by the impressive Boateng. The next attack saw Messi played in behind the defenders. This was his moment – but his cross shot went past Neuer’s far post.
The 'shot' of the night turned out to be a brilliant view of the statue of Christ the Redeemer against the setting sun. Breathtaking! Argentina continued to press – Higuain swung and missed. Then Messi came forward again but was seen off by Boateng. Germany moved upfield but lost possession. Argentina broke quickly down their left and Aguero was only stopped by another excellent Boateng tackle.
The referee then made a couple of very dubious decisions. Firstly he gave Argentina a free-kick when Muller was having his shirt taken from his back by a defender. A moment later, Neuer raced to the edge of his box to clatter Higuain – free kick Germany?
On 59 mins, Lahm finally found the head of Klose with a cross. His header was on target but did not trouble Romero. Germany then constructed a sweet passing move let down by Lahm’s overhit final pass. An hour had gone – yet Klose was still on the park. Was this a first? Indeed, the World Cup’s all-time top scorer soon won back a ball and fed Schurrle down the left. The cross was on the money but somehow Ozil got in the way and it bounced out for a goal kick.
Mascherano got his side’s first yellow for a trip on Klose. He was immediately followed into the book when Aguero clattered Schweinsteiger on 65 mins. Next Biglia was tripped but Neuer came to claim the lofted free kick. Scuffles seemed to be breaking out all over the pitch; the atmosphere was not helped by more poor refereeing decisions.
Schweinsteiger was having a great match – time and again he got a foot in to derail promising moves. On 70 a lovely German move found Schurrle in the box but he moved as though he was wading in wet cement. The ball was cleared by Romero. Schurrle’s next involvement saw him turn and hit a ball played up to him. The ball kept rising into the night sky…
On 73 mins Messi returned to the game. Good defending by Hummels saw him off at first but Zabaleta and his captain then worked the ball in from the right. Messi hit a trademark left foot curler from the edge of the box which Neuer was pleased to see sail beyond his back post. On 77 Higuain was replaced by Palacio. Messi then tried to run onto a ball into the box but it was smothered by Neuer’s dive.
Germany then won a corner. The defence initially got it away but Germany won the ball back and found Howedes in front of goal. Just when they wanted Klose on the end of it, they got their left back. He took an age to sort his feet out and the ball was cleared. On 82 mins Lahm and Ozil worked an opening for Croos but he shot wide. Then Palacio found Messi but his pass went beyond Aguero.
Argentina brought on their final sub; Gago on for Perez on 86 mins. Argentina went on the attack but Messi was halted by another great tackle by Boateng. Then Klose was eventually replaced by Goetze. Palacio’s attempt to get forward was ended by Howedes’ firm tackle.
3 extra minutes began and Goetze hit a weak shot at Romero. There was just time for Muller to miss a chance and Hummels to make a timely clearance. Then time was up: 90 minutes – still 0-0. The Germans had clocked 3 shots on target – Argentina had none…
This, apparently, was the 7th World Cup final to go to extra time. Schurrle had an early shot saved before Argentina got forward. A cross sailed through the penalty area but no attacker was in it…
Schweinsteiger then got a nasty boot in the face. Germany pressed again but Lahm’s passing had gone awry and defences seemed to be getting on top. Then, on 97 mins, a simple forward pass from Rojo found Palacio breaking into the box. He chested it down then tried to lob the advancing Neuer. He cleared the keeper but missed the goal and Boateng saw it out for a goal kick.
Germany were still trying to get forward and Mascherano was kept busy breaking up attacks: he was lucky to get away with a nasty foul on Schweinsteiger. The first 15 minutes ended with Germany pressing and Argentina defending.
Argentina started the final period on the front foot but the ever alert Neuer was quick to grasp any ball that came near. Schweinsteiger then had a rough few minutes in which he was fouled 3 times – Zabaleta and Aguero might easily have seen red but it was the German who had to leave the field. He got treatment for a deep cut on his cheek, courtesy of Aguero. Shortly afterwards Demichelis was downed following a clash of heads.
There was under 10 minutes left when Schweinsteiger rejoined. Shortly afterwards Germany concocted the sort of goal fit to win any match – even this World Cup final. Schurrle picked up the ball near the half-way line and made a determined break down the left. His cross found Goetze breaking into the box. The sub controlled the ball on his chest before sweeping a sweet, left foot volley across Romero and into the far corner! 1-0 and I doubt Schweinsteiger felt any further pain during the last 6 minutes.
Germany continued to pass the ball but Argentina now chased it with renewed intent. Messi and Palacio worked hard to get their team forward but the excellent Boateng and his goalkeeper remained strong for Germany. With 3 minutes left Rojo got down the left. His cross found Messi but Neuer watched as the header cleared his bar.
In the final minute Muller broke down the left but fired his shot across the face of the goal. As we moved into 2 added minutes, Mertesacker replaced Ozil and joined the white defensive wall. With seconds remaining, Schweinsteiger brought down Messi giving the little man one last free kick. In his mind’s eye he no doubt saw the world’s best keeper clutching at air as the ball nestled in the net. In reality - in Rio - his shot cleared the bar and the game was up.
Germany had won their first World Cup since re-unification and their players and supporters went wild. Argentinian fans wept and, one imagines, the whole host nation gave a collective sigh of relief…
Man of the match: Tough choice – Schweinsteiger had a cracking game and came very close to garnering my vote. But I’ve never been able to resist a meaty challenge from a big-centre half and, for his exceptional defending throughout the final, my MoM is Jerome Boateng.
The teams were kept waiting far too long for the presentations. As Sepp and Dilma entered the pitch, there was a reassuring barrage of booing. Neuer quite rightly won the Golden Glove. James Rodriguez (in absentia) won the Golden Boot. For some reason (known only to FIFA and their backers) Messi won the Golden Ball – for player of the tournament. I can think of a dozen players, half of them German, more deserving of that award.
Eventually the medals were doled out, Angela Merkel hugged every German player and Philip Lahm finally got to lift the cup. Well done Germany. That was an impressive tournament and that old 'Europe can’t win in America' hoodoo has finally been put to bed.
And well done Brazil. It may not have been the football result you wanted but Brazil 2014 has been a big success. After the delights of the Copacabana, Moscow and the Arabian desert have a lot to live up to…
- Götze 113′
Ref: Nicola Rizzoli
- Germany 64%
- Argentina 36%
- Germany 10
- Argentina 10
- Germany 5
- Argentina 0
- Germany 5
- Argentina 3
- Germany 20
- Argentina 16
For Messi, the Golden Globe for the World Cup's outstanding player was little consolation