Published July 15, 2014, on The Korea Herald
RIO DE JANEIRO ― With two minutes left in full time and the teams stuck in a scoreless deadlock, German coach Joachim Loew told substitute forward Mario Goetze to show the world that he could outperform rival Argentina’s star striker Lionel Messi to win the match.
“‘I said to Mario Goetze, ‘Okay. Show to the world that you’re better than Messi, and that you can decide the World Cup. You have all the possibilities to do just that,’” Loew said.
And on Sunday at Maracana Stadium, he did it in the dying minutes of extra time to give Germany its fourth title. It is now the first European team to win the cup in the Americas.
Andre Schurrle sped down the left past Argentina’s defense to cross deep into the center to Goetze, who brought the ball down on his chest before firing it past goalkeeper Sergio Romero in the 113th minute.
“Goetze is a miracle boy,” Loew said at a press conference after Germany’s victory. “He can play everything. Boy wonder. Any position, he has superior technical qualities. I know that he’s always able to decide the match when it is decisive, and it was a great decider he scored today.”
Complete with midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger playing through injuries, the midfield-heavy Germans battled a hard Argentinean defense to the bloody end to earn their fourth World Cup win over the opponents, including one for the title in 1990.
Goetze, named Man of the Match, said the team savored the victory as “a dream come true.”
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, I don’t know how to describe it,” said the 22-year-old Bayern Munich forward, who had also scored against Ghana in the group stages. “You just shoot that goal and you don’t know what’s happening, and (at) the very end of the match, it’s indescribable.”
The first half was characterized by Germany playing methodical possession and short, precise passing, with Argentina’s Messi breaking away with the ball at times to attempt to beat the German defense with pace. Gonzalo Higuain got the game going in the first three minutes with a shot, but it flew past the goal with no one to receive it on the other end.
Germany suffered a scare after midfielder Christoph Kramer, who swapped for injured Sami Khedira at the last minute, smashed into Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay’s shoulder as they jumped for the ball. He was out for several moments before receiving medical attention, and after some 10 more minutes of play, had to walk off with assistance, looking dazed and faint.
Higuan dominated Argentina’s attacks, having a close call in the 20th minute when Toni Kroos headed the ball back toward the goal and straight to the unmarked striker. The volley flew wide, but set the precedent as Argentina warmed up its offense.
He almost made up for it when he found the net, assisted by Ezequiel Lavezzi in the 29th minute, but he was ruled offside.
Both sides brought on the attacks in the second half, and it became a battle between Messi’s breakaway pace and German tactics.
Schurrle broke through the defense in the 70th minute but fumbled his shot. Ten minutes later, Toni Kroos received a cross from right in front of goal, but his shot narrowly went past the left post.
Nearing the end of full time, the Argentineans began to tire with some succumbing to cramp. They found a fresh burst of energy when extra time was announced, but the Germans stole the ball for Goetze to ground a far shot from right midfield, which goalie Romero safely collected.
The pressure was on in extra time with both teams determined to decide the match before a shootout, but the tit-for-tat possession continued in Germany’s offensive half. Germany applied methodical pressure with short passes all across the field, but struggled to get past Argentina’s defenders.
Meanwhile, Bastian Schweinsteiger took hit after hit, first badgering his knee after a tackle after 100 minutes. Then he got caught in the eye by Argentine Jerome Boateng’s fist in vying for a header with all concerns to bloody-faced Schweinsteiger, who left the field for treatment.
He rejoined the game to deliver a burst of aggression on the left. Schurrle found an opening in the flank and sped down to cross the ball to Goetze, who buried it inside the far post.
The Argentineans picked up the pace with just seven minutes left as German and Argentinean fans filled the stadium with chants. Defender Marcos Rojo flew down the left to make shots, sending long balls to the front and attempting to lob one over the midfield ― attacks that goalkeeper Manuel Neuer deftly fended off.
They had one last chance to even the score with a free kick from the right by star striker Messi. But his shot flew high, and he winced as the players returned to the center.
After a long ball led to one last scramble, the final whistle blew and the Argentinean crowd fell to a hush as the German bench rushed the field.
Defender Mats Hummels lay on the ground, face plastered with a goofy grin, as a teary and bloodied Schweinsteiger hugged his teammates.
The Argentinean side stood on the other side of the field at parade rest, waiting, not speaking, not moving. Fans piled out of the stadium before the award ceremony.
Captain Messi withheld emotion even when receiving his Golden Ball award for best player, avoiding eye contact with Neuer as he collected his Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper.
After the match, Argentina’s head coach Alejandro Sabella praised his players for the best game they’ve played in the tournament and said they deserved to be welcomed back in Buenos Aires for their valiant efforts.
“They played a fantastic World Cup. There’s nothing to blame them for,” he said. “Today we had our chances, but we just lacked efficiency. In general terms, though, I am very proud. Beyond the pain of defeat they can look each other in the eye, and look in the mirror, and know they gave their all for Argentina.”
Germany’s Loew said that this victory the result of 10 years of reforming the country’s football.
“I think this title will have its value for the future and will give us a push in Germany for the whole country,” he said. “This is a product of the excellent training and education of Germany.”
German football hit a low point when the squad crashed out of consecutive Euro Cups in 2000 and 2004, which led to fundamental changes in youth programs and coaching, starting with previous head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Loew noted.
“I think our strength is that over these years we were able to increase our performance. We made constant progress,” he added. “Although we did not make this ultimate step before, champions will do what they have to do and bring this thing to a good end.
“We believed in it and we worked a lot for it. And if there is somebody who deserves it, then it’s this team.”
By Elaine Ramirez, Korea Herald correspondent (firstname.lastname@example.org)