Mario Gotze’s sensational chest and volley in extra time gave Germany their fourth World Cup, beating Argentina 1-0.
These sides hadn’t met since the 1990 Final, when West Germany beat Diego Maradona’s Argentina 1-0 in Italy. That was also the Albiceleste’s last outing in a Final and the most recent German World Cup victory.
Angel Di Maria did not recover in time from a thigh strain to start, while Sergio Aguero was also fit only for the bench, so Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Enzo Perez played. Germany had named Sami Khedira in their XI, but he pulled out during the warm-up with a calf injury and made way for Christoph Kramer at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, only his second start. Lazio striker Miroslav Klose was already the all-time top World Cup scorer with 16 goals.
Higuain really should’ve given Argentina the lead after 20 minutes when Toni Kroos headed it back into his path, but Pipita scuffed the gift well wide from the edge of the box.
Bastian Schweinsteiger was first into Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli’s book for tripping Lavezzi from behind. Higuain did have the ball in the back of the net when getting on the end of a wonderful Lavezzi cross from the right, but the Italian linesman raised his flag for a correct call.
Kramer’s World Cup Final lasted only 30 minutes, as he was practically carried off looking extremely dazed to make way for Andreas Schurrle. Kramer had carried on for 13 minutes after a very nasty knock to the head off Ezequiel Garay’s shoulder.
Howedes was also booked for hacking down Pablo Zabaleta, while Mesut Ozil was offside and disturbing Sergio Romero when the Sampdoria goalkeeper brilliantly parried a Schurrle effort.
Leo Messi burst past Mats Hummels down the left and flicked it over Manuel Neuer, but Jerome Boateng rushed back to clear practically off the line. At the other end, Kroos hit a tame finish straight at Romero.
Germany almost scored on the stroke of half-time with a bullet Howedes header from five yards, but it thumped the upright and Thomas Muller was offside on the rebound.
Sergio Aguero replaced the lively Lavezzi and Messi sprung the offside trap, but his angled drive shaved a coat of paint off the base of the far post.
Neuer rushed out to punch a ball off Higuain’s head, clattering into the striker on the follow-through. Rizzoli awarded a free kick to Germany, though it could so easily have been interpreted as dangerous play from the goalkeeper and a red card.
Klose’s header was too weak to trouble Romero, but the tension started to rise with Javier Mascherano and Aguero booked in quick succession. Messi cut in from the right and curled just wide, then he went on a mazy run but Neuer smothered at Rodrigo Palacio’s feet.
Muller threaded through for Howedes, but the defender was unable to turn on the penalty spot, then Kroos side-footed wide from the edge of the area on a fine Ozil pull-back. Klose was given an ovation on his substitution, as this is the last World Cup for the 36-year-old record-holder.
It was still goalless after 90 minutes, so became the seventh World Cup Final to go to extra time. Within seconds of the restart, Romero had his gloves stung by Schurrle from close range. Palacio threatened at the other end, his lob over the on-rushing Neuer off target.
Argentina started to fatigue, as they went to penalties in the semi-final against the Netherlands, played the day after Germany thrashed Brazil 7-1.
Aguero risked a second yellow card on 108 minutes, and even a straight red, for punching Schweinsteiger in the face during a jump. It left the German with a large cut to his cheekbone and infuriated the bench.
Germany soon forgot their anger, as moments later Mario Gotze put them in front. He was at full stretch to chest and volley a Schurrle cross from the left, having peeled off Martin Demichelis to find space in front of Romero.
Argentina poured forward, but Neuer was alert and Messi’s header was on the roof of the net, then his free kick was off target.
Germany 1-0 Argentina aet
Scorers: Gotze 113 (G)
Germany: Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Hummels, Howedes; Kramer (Schurrle 32), Schweinsteiger; Muller, Kroos, Ozil (Mertesacker 119); Klose (Gotze 88)
Argentina: Romero; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo; Biglia, Mascherano; Perez (Gago 86), Messi, Lavezzi (Aguero 46); Higuain (Palacio 78)
Ref: Rizzoli (ITA)
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!