A third meeting at this stage with Argentina, 2014's World Cup Final belonged to Germany, writes Livio Caferoglu, whilst Brazil's tournament ended in consecutive defeats.
Germany and Argentina had taken very different routes to reach the Maracana showpiece, but they were both presented with the opportunity to end two decades of pain. Andreas Brehme’s penalty in 1990 ruined the South Americans’ last appearance in a World Cup Final, while Joachim Low’s side had endured a succession of near-misses since their defeat to Brazil in the 2002 edition.
However, it seemed that luck was not to be on the Germans side when Sami Khedira – the catalyst in their incredible 7-1 victory over Brazil – pulled up in the pre-match warm-up. His replacement came in the form of 23-year-old Christoph Kramer, who was preparing to make his first competitive start for the Nationalelf. Yet he was also forced to retire during the first half after taking a blow to the head from Ezequiel Garay.
It did not take long for the two nations’ clashing styles to become evident, with Germany opting to remain patient in the face of Argentina’s counterattacking approach. Yet it was the Albiceleste who would later rue their profligacy in front of goal – Gonzalo Higuain fluffed a gilt-edged one-on-one with Manuel Neuer after Toni Kroos had inexplicably headed the ball to the Napoli striker.
A pulsating first half was ended by Benedikt Howedes’ header, which slammed against the post, but with tensions running high, the match descended into a lull after the break. Prior to extra-time, the target was hit just three times, and Argentina failed to test Neuer at all. Rodrigo Palacio’s wayward lob personified his side’s lack of composure at critical junctures.
It paved the way for fellow substitute and German prodigy Mario Gotze to make history by toe-poking the winner on the half-volley with seven minutes remaining.
July 13 - 20:00 Germany 1-0 Argentina aet (Rio De Janeiro)
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)
Brazil were supposed to salvage some pride after their 7-1 mauling at the hands of Germany in the semi-finals, but the Netherlands had other ideas. Although not quite as comprehensive, the Oranje - in Louis van Gaal's last match before taking over at Manchester United - outplayed the hosts to record a convincing 3-0 success, thus ending the Selecao’s campaign with a deafening chorus of boos, jeers and calls for national reform.
July 12 - 21:00 Brazil 0-3 Netherlands (Brasilia)
Scorers: Van Persie pen 3 (N), Blind 17 (N), Wijnaldum 92 (N)
Brazil: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Maxwell; Paulinho (Hernanes 57), Luiz Gustavo (Fernandinho 46); Ramires (Hulk 73), Oscar, Willian; Jo
Netherlands: Cillessen (Vorm 93); De Vrij, Vlaar, Martins Indi; Kuyt, Wijnaldum, Clasie (Veltman 90), Blind (Janmaat 70); De Guzman; Van Persie, Robben
Ref: Haimoudi (ALG)