Monday, July 14, 2014

2014 FIFA World Cup: Finals

Germany 1 : 0 Argentina
Mario Götze, who had been a late substitute for Miroslav Klose, took a ball over his shoulder from Andre Schürrle and volleyed it home in the 113th minute to beat Argentine keeper Sergio Romero.

''It's an unbelievable feeling. I don't know how to describe it. You just shoot that goal in, you don't really know what's happening,'' said 22-year-old Götze. ''And then at the end of the match, having a party with the team, the whole country ... it is for us, a dream come true.''

With the win, Germany became the first European team to win a South American World Cup, ending a hex that had stood for 84 years. It was also the third time that the Germans had ended Argentina's World Cup hopes -- and possibly the cruelest. But just as the best two teams at this World Cup ended up in the final, the best team won it.

The state of play in the first half -- Argentina absorbing some manageable German pressure and then pushing forward with limited numbers to pose a threat on the break without sacrificing solidity -- worked well enough. Gonzalo Higuain even spurned a glorious chance when Toni Kroos played a poor ball back to Manuel Neuer. All in all, the opening stages of the match suited Argentina well.

Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella opted to make a change at halftime and threw Sergio Agüero into the fray to replace Lavezzi. Agüero is a superior player when fully fit, but he proved the wrong choice in this game. His arrival reduced the numbers in midfield and tempered any efforts to use the wide areas.

Kroos’ miss rather summed up the work in front of goal for much of the day. Höwedes somehow turned a header onto the near post from six yards on the stroke of half time, while Higuain, Messi and Rodrigo Palacio all wasted opportunities to give Argentina a tangible foothold. The first team to create and then take an opportunity always loomed as the likely winner.


Germany ultimately managed to procure a goal of considerable quality to decide the game. Schürrle carved out a modest amount of space on the left and served an inviting ball to the near post. Götze – the third and final German sub – collected the cross on his chest with his first touch and then swept it inside the far post from a tight angle after 113 minutes.

The late bit of magic decided a final with fine margins between the sides. Argentina defended well and kept its shape impeccably, but it failed to produce a shot on target in 120 minutes. Germany enjoyed most of the possession without doing enough with it for long stretches, but it summoned that wonderful sequence to ultimately decide the affair. The extra bit of quality eventually separated the teams on the day and wrapped this tournament with the best team in Brazil holding the trophy.

Lineups

Germany: Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Benedikt Hoewedes; Christoph Kramer (Andre Schurrle, 32), Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos; Thomas Müller, Mesut Ozil (Per Mertesacker, 120); Miroslav Klose (Mario Götze, 88).

Argentina: Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay, Martin Demichelis, Marcos Roja; Javier Mascherano, Enzo Perez (Fernando Gago, 86), Lucas Biglia; Ezequiel Lavezzi (Sergio Aguero, 46), Lionel Messi; Gonzalo Higuain (Rodrigo Palacio, 78).


Lionel Messi didn't win the 2014 World Cup, but he still came away with gold: The Golden Ball. The Argentine captain was named the best player of the tournament by the FIFA Technical Study Group ahead of Germany's Thomas Müller and Netherlands star winger Arjen Robben.

The Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper was less controversial, going to German netminder Manuel Neuer, while the Golden Boot was stats based: The honor for top scorer was claimed by Colombia's James Rodriguez, who finished with six goals.

More information:
» The Guardian: Final Meeting of Two Golden Generations
» Bloomberg: Messi Fails to Win One Trophy He Really Wanted
» New York Times: Qatar's Bid for Soccer Respect

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