History-makers Germany are deserving winners
Germany deserve World Cup No. 4 with their stylish blend of creativity and efficiency
(Mario Goetze 113)
- After extra time
The Germans collapsed in a euphoric heap in the centre circle. The burden of expectation was finally lifted and replaced by the unbridled joy of fulfilling a decade-long destiny.
Joachim Loew's most talented generation are golden at last. The monkeys of semi-final failure have been ripped from Die Mannschaft's backs.
Germany won. Football won and the Beautiful Game leaves Brazil with its reputation restored and the right name on the trophy.
The World Cup final left it late, but the tournament got a fitting finale in the end.
Normal time couldn't separate them. The weary warhorses of both Germany and Argentina were dead on their feet. There was no distance left to run.
Bodies were battered, exhausted and threatening to go on strike. Muddled minds struggled desperately to unscramble thoughts and focus on the impending lottery from 12 yards.
But, to confound the oldest stereotype, the Germans didn't need penalties this time.
These terrific Teutonic battlers found the extra metre of space, an inch of inspiration and that rarest moment of magic inside the Maracana to silence the South Americans.
In the 113th minute, the Germans did what the Germans have been doing for generations. They found the inner resolve to prevail in a remarkable triumph of will.
Andre Schuerrle scurried down the left flank as Pablo Zabaleta crumpled, his body riddled with cramp.
The substitute found the drive to fulfil Germany's destiny, flying past the failing fullback.
His cross was exquisite, but the finish sublime and entirely in keeping with what has been such a scintillating spectacle from the first minute to almost the last.
Fellow substitute Mario Goetze chested the ball in the air, the calmest man inside the Maracana and, from six metres, volleyed a deserving nation into history.
It's a fourth World Cup victory and the first European side to win in South America with a stylish blend of creativity and efficiency that might not have been samba, but it was no less sublime.
The Germans have seized the baton from the deposed Spaniards and added a steely gloss.
Loew said that there is so much more still to come from the first graduating class of the Bundesliga's revolution.
What a glorious beginning it has been in Brazil.
When local supermodel Gisele Bundchen and 2010 World Cup winner Carles Puyol delivered the gleaming trophy to the Maracana centre circle, the retired Spanish defender raised the golden bauble to the heavens and appeared reluctant to let it go.
In the initial exchanges, Germany and Argentina didn't seem particularly keen on taking it from him.
History weighed heavily on both nations, but the burden of expectation initially overwhelmed the Germans. Loew's light-footed conquerors of Brazil were replaced by perspiring labourers.
Sami Khedira's calf injury, sustained in the warm-up, typified the Teutonic tentativeness.
When his replacement Christoph Kramer signalled to be taken off after half an hour, staggering around in a daze after an earlier head clash, Loew had a headache of his own.
Germany scaled the dizzying heights against the Selecao. For much of the final, they just looked dizzy.
Their double injury in the same position left an obvious weakness, which the lively Ezequiel Lavezzi exploited, zipping through the gap to be let down by poor finishing from teammates.
Both sides ploughed a similar furrow with Philipp Lahm and Thomas Mueller doubling up effectively on the right, and Zabaleta and Enzo Perez doing likewise on the opposing flank.
But jittery legs caused mistimed runs. Nerves hindered decision-making. The most overworked muscle on the Maracana pitch was the linesman's tricep hoisting his flag aloft to a cacophony of groans and whistles.
For an hour, watching Brazilians thought they had been the unwitting victims of split-personality. Germany's plunderers in the semi-final had been replaced by self-doubt and midfield dithering. Toni Kroos had left his shooting boots in Belo Horizonte.
Fluid football was rare and growing frustration led to cynical bookings on both sides.
As the sun set behind the Maracana, the malignant shadow of 1990 hung over proceedings. This contest never descended to the nasty, brutish depths of that final's dreadful display of anti-football, but jeers drowned out the cheers as extra time loomed.
Comparisons towards the last meeting of these sides in a final are inevitable, but tactically the game bore closer similarity to West Germany's meeting with England in 1966.
Two of the finest players in their positions effectively cancelled each other out. As Franz Beckenbauer fixated on stopping Bobby Charlton rather than express his own strengths, so Kroos tag-teamed with Bastian Schweinsteiger to minimise Lionel Messi's influence.
Between them, they effectively nullified Argentina's No. 10. But, in keeping one artist captive, Kroos had no time to work on his own canvas.
Penalties seemed inevitable, an unfitting end to such a swaggering exhibition of swift, counter-attacking football.
But fortune favoured the brilliant. Goetze's finish epitomised a tournament of unforgettable moments by adding another.
There could be no other outcome. There could be no other winners.