• Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Glory for Germany

Götze stunner in second half of extra time snatches victory from Argentina

Mario Goetze of Germany scores his team's first goal in extra time during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
Mario Goetze of Germany scores his team's first goal in extra time during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

Mario Gotze's 113th-minute volley fired Germany to World Cup glory with a 1-0 win over Argentina at the Maracana, Goal.com reports.

The tournament's outstanding team failed to repeat the fluency and brilliance of their 7-1 semi-final romp against Brazil but Joachim Low's team found one more sumptuous moment during the second half of extra time.

Bayern Munich playmaker Gotze, on as an 88th-minute replacement for World Cup record goalscorer Miroslav Klose, chested down Andre Schurrle's floated left-wing cross at the near post to superbly steer home from six yards.

It was the first time Argentina had found themselves behind in the competition and it came as a bitter pill to swallow after Alejandro Sabella's men had created the better chances in normal time.

 

Gonzalo Higuain passed up a glorious opportunity midway though the first half and the Argentina striker also had a first-half effort correctly ruled out for offside.

Germany defender Benedikt Howedes then headed against the post on the stroke of the interval, and after the break passions threatened to boil over in what was an understandably feisty encounter.

Lionel Messi fired agonisingly wide shortly after the restart, while Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was lucky not to be punished for clattering a knee into Higuain's face as the striker ran through on goal.

Neuer's opposite number, Sergio Romero, denied Schurrle inside the first minute of extra time, while fellow substitute Rodrigo Palacio fluffed his lines at the other end before Gotze sealed Germany's fourth World Cup triumph.

The newly crowned champions were forced into an 11th-hour change after influential midfielder Sami Khedira suffered the heartbreak of sustaining a calf strain during the warm-up.

Borussia Monchengladbach's Christoph Kramer came in for the Real Madrid man, despite having only played 12 minutes during the tournament and being absent from Low's provisional 30-man squad before replacing Andre Hahn.

Toni Kroos drilled an early free-kick into the defensive wall, prompting an Argentina break on which Ezequiel Lavezzi shot across the face of goal.

Fans of Argentina react before the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Fans of Argentina react before the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

Veteran Germany striker Klose was then muscled away from Philipp Lahm's inviting 13th-minute cross by Martin Demichelis as Low's men settled into an ominous rhythm, although Ezequiel Garay's shuddering shoulder charge into Kramer's face that ultimately cut short the 23-year-old's fairytale appearance showed Argentina were not ready to be dictated to.

The South Americans should have taken the lead in the 21st minute, Higuain pulling his shot wastefully wide after Kroos' ill-judged header back sold Germany's defence horribly short.

Nine minutes later, the Napoli man thought he had atoned, sweeping home Lavezzi's low cross, only to see his wild and lengthy celebrations denied by an offside flag.

Schurrle, on for the stricken Kramer, drew a sharp save from Romero, while Messi forced Jerome Boateng to hack his cross-shot out of the goalmouth after racing down the right.

Howedes - somewhat fortunate to have only been booked for a reckless lunge on Pablo Zabaleta earlier in the half - then thudded Kroos' stoppage-time corner against the post to conclude an eventful opening period.

Lionel Messi of Argentina reacts after the 0-1 defeat in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
Lionel Messi of Argentina reacts after the 0-1 defeat in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

Messi's big moment looked to have arrived two minutes into the second half but the Barcelona superstar shot past the far post on the end of Lucas Biglia's measured throughball, with Neuer beaten.

An Argentina attack bolstered by Sergio Aguero's half-time introduction for Lavezzi continued to give Germany's high defensive line some nervy moments, and Neuer - in full-on 'sweeper keeper' mode - was on the wrong side of robust in clattering through Higuain in the 57th minute as he sought to get on the end of Zabaleta's raking ball.

Referee Nicola Rizzoli awarded a German free-kick amid Argentine bemusement.

Bookings in quick succession for Javier Mascherano and Aguero hinted at bubbling frustration as the game entered its final quarter and Germany ended the 90 minutes back on the front foot, as Kroos drilled the ball past the post from 18 yards.

Schurrle almost provided an explosive start to extra time as Romero stood firm and the Argentina counter-attack was looking increasingly potent when Aguero dragged a shot off target.

In the 97th-minute, Palacio evaded the attentions of Germany's defence but his touch over Neuer was far too heavy.

And it was an error that Argentina would deeply regret, as Gotze found a brilliant finish with seven minutes left that was a fitting way to win the showpiece as a European nation secured a first World Cup win on South American soil.

*** *** ***

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (up) vies with Germany's defender Jerome Boateng during the final football match between Germany and Argentina for the FIFA World Cup at The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (up) vies with Germany's defender Jerome Boateng during the final football match between Germany and Argentina for the FIFA World Cup at The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

FULL COMMENTARY: EXTRA TIME

So Messi will have to wait until he's 31 to have another crack at World Cup glory. He's denied the trophy that may have well put him alone atop the pantheon of the greatest footballers of all time. Looking some way short of full fitness, the Barca man couldn't rise to the occasion.

Spare a thought for Argentina though. They battled to the bitter end and in fact had the better chances to win the game in regulation. However, they could not take their opportunities when presented and it's come back to haunt them.

Two of their substitutes do the damage to win them the trophy. Schurrle set up Gotze for a 113th minute winner and it may well have been that depth that got them over the line in the end.

They took the long road, but Germany got home in the end. It's their fourth World Cup trophy, putting them one behind Brazil for the all-time lead. A heroic performance from Die Mannschaft.

120' + 4' THE FINAL WHISTLE HAS SOUNDED! GERMANY ARE THE CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD!

120' + 3' Oh dear. What a disappointment. Messi lashes a tragic free kick into the stands of the Maracana. Fans who watched the ball sail into the night sky might have well been watching Argentina's hopes fly away as well...

120' + 2' Now or never for Argentina. They win a free kick outside the box after a Schweinsteiger foul. Only one man presiding over this. This is the last chance for Argentina to salvage the World Cup. Messi literally stands over history...

120' + 1' Ozil makes way for his Arsenal teammate Mertesacker, who by the way, has just overtaken Franz Beckenbauer in total Germany caps. Two minutes of added time to come. Two minutes for Argentina to save it!

120' Substitution: Mesut Özil OUT, Per Mertesacker IN

Rodrigo Palacio of Argentina shoots and misses wide against goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng of Germany during the final football match between Germany and Argentina for the FIFA World Cup at The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Rodrigo Palacio of Argentina shoots and misses wide against goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng of Germany during the final football match between Germany and Argentina for the FIFA World Cup at The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

120' LATE CHANCE FOR MULLER TO SEAL IT! Against a tired and utterly demoralized Argentina defence, Germany's top scorer sneaks through down the left hand side, but he can't do much more than poke the ball across the six yard box!

119' Pained Argentine faces abound across the Maracana stands. Messi plants a half-change onto the roof of the net with Neuer well positioned to cover in any case. That goal from Gotze really was a hammer blow to the stomach. The Argentine recovery is looking unlikely now.

117' Two minor scares for Germany as Rojo's spinning cross isn't properly met by Palacio. Argentina work the ball back into a dangerous area, once again using the left flank for leverage. However, Neuer scampers out to the very corner of his box to clear the ball first!

115' We're seven minutes and change away now from the first ever European World Cup champion on South American soil. Argentina had not conceded previously for close to eight hours. They need someone to stand up and be a hero now. Time is not on their side.

113'Goal Mario Götze

IS THAT THE MOMENT? The two substitutes combine to devastating effect for Germany! Schurrle makes inroads down the left hand side, and lofts in a neat cross towards the near post. Gotze takes it excellently on his chest and with time and space to move, he stabs it into the back of the net!

111' While Schweinsteiger is getting stitched up (literally) on the sidelines, Germany see another one of their own take a bruise by Argentine hands. In a challenge for a high ball, Demichelis knocks back the head of Muller with a sickening thud. Nothing malicious in the incident, but not pretty to look at.

110' Blood is gushing out just below the right eye of Schweinsteiger after he took the worst of an aerial challenge with Aguero. The Bayern midfielder stares down the fourth official, implying that there should be further action than a foul against the striker.

109' And in case you were wondering, what they say about Germans and penalties is true. Die Mannschaft do not shake from the spot, they have won all four of their previous World Cup shootouts.

 Lionel Messi of Argentina competes for the ball with Benedikt Hoewedes (C) and Mats Hummels of Germany during the final football match between Germany and Argentina for the FIFA World Cup at The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Lionel Messi of Argentina competes for the ball with Benedikt Hoewedes (C) and Mats Hummels of Germany during the final football match between Germany and Argentina for the FIFA World Cup at The Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

108' An interesting stat for you to chew on as we contemplate the final being settled from 12 yards. In their past five World Cup shootouts, Argentina have emerged victorious in four. Their lone defeat? Against Germany, of course, in 2006. No Jens Lehmann this time, but would you bet against Neuer or Romero from the spot?

106' Play restarts once again. This is the final chance for someone to steal this trophy before we enter the penalty lottery.

105' As we've seen so many times in this World Cup, both teams converge in their individual huddles to set up for the final lap. Boateng is among those getting looked at by the physios, while everyone's using the change to rehydrate. We'll be underway again in a moment.

Half time of extra time.

105' No additional time here. We're heading to a very short interval here in extra time.

103' Looks like Schweinsteiger will be alright to continue here - at least for the moment. Despite his injury woes, he's never one to go down (or off) without a fight. Half time in extra time is around the corner and all signs point to a penalty shootout at this point.

101' Mascherano pulls off a great tackle to leave Schweinsteiger in a heap, but he stumbles and can't keep a hold of the ball. Trouble here for the Bayern midfielder who is very slow to recover. He's had tons of fitness problems in the last season or two, Schweinsteiger, and Low still has one change left should he need it.

99' Starting to slow down again in the Maracana. We've seen as much in the opening nine minutes of extra time as we have for almost the entirety of the second half of regulation. There's signs of fatigue all over the pitch though. Hummels and Muller look gassed, while Messi's hamstring still looks to be troublesome.

97' Hummels with his first mistake of the game and it's nearly a critical one! Rojo swings in a deep cross from the left flank that sails over the jump of the centre back. This allows Palacio a momentary glimpse on goal. He tries to touch the bouncing ball over the head of Neuer, but he rushed it! Not on target.

95' In fact, that last Aguero attempt went out for a throw in, which Neuer wastes no time in taking himself. On Germany's next attack, Lahm spots Gotze's run down the right and plays in the pass, but the former Dortmund man can't keep it from crossing the byline. Goalkick.

94' Encouraging signs at the start of the added period. Both sides are looking to get themselves on the board rather than avoid conceding. Aguero makes inroads down the left hand side once again but his low attempt flashes across the face of goal, much like Higuain's in the first half.

92' WHAT A START TO THE PERIOD! Schurrle sees a snap shot from the top of the box denied and Ozil is blocked before he can apply the finishing touch from the rebound. Aguero counters in a instant but Hummels pulls off a MAGNIFICENT challenge to deny him what looked like a clear run on goal!

91' Extra time commences with Germany on the ball.

Germany's forward Miroslav Klose and Argentina's forward Sergio Aguero in action during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
Germany's forward Miroslav Klose and Argentina's forward Sergio Aguero in action during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

FULL TIME

90' + 4' For the third World Cup final running, we need an additional 30 minutes to decide the destination of the trophy. The second half was a huge let down after an intriguing opening period. It's still goalless.

90' + 4' We're heading into extra time.

90' + 3' Germany are denied by some fantastic Zabaleta defending on the right side of the box. Argentina spark forward in one last desperate attack, but Hummels is as committed as the Manchester City man to deny Aguero a route forward. That looks to be that.

90' + 2' Gotze had the chance at his feet for one second. He had daylight in front of him with the Argentine midfield backpedaling.. For a man who has just come on, he looks really legged though. He can't get the ball out of his feet in time and hits a tame shot for Romero to smother.

90' The last two World Cup finals have gone to extra time. 2006 saw Italy use penalties to defeat France, while in 2010 we witnessed Andres Iniesta score with the clock running down to clinch the trophy for Spain against Netherlands. Three minutes added on here.

88' Substitution: Miroslav Klose OUT, Mario Götze IN

88' Both sets of fans stand and applaud as Miroslav Klose trudges off in what is surely his last action on the World Cup stage. A record 16 goals spread over four World Cups from 2002-2014. The all time leading top scorer in the tournament's history. He deserves every second of the acclaim. On comes Gotze in his stead.

86' SubstitutionEnzo Nicolás Pérez OUT, Fernando Gago IN

86' Third and final change from Sabella. Fernando Gago comes on for Perez in a like for like swap in the middle of the park. No heroic appearance off the bench for Di Maria then. All cards played by Argentina now. It's up to Messi, Aguero and Co. now to deliver.

Benedikt Hoewedes of Germany and Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi react during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
Benedikt Hoewedes of Germany and Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi react during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

84' Small delay in proceedings as some knucklehead makes his way onto the pitch. The cameras wisely decide not to give this person the moment in the spotlight that his idiotic actions were geared towards. Instead, we're treated to some glorious images of Rio de Janeiro at night,

83' TONI KROOS! It's Germany with all the momentum as we head into what increasingly looks like an additional 30 minutes of extra time. Lahm links up with Ozil down the right hand side and tees up his Bayern teammate at the top of the box. However, he lashes the ball the wrong side of the post!

81' Two close calls for Argentina here as Germany ramp up the intensity! Howedes gets the ball in a smashing position inside the box, but can't get it out from under his feet in time. To his credit, he doesn't try to appeal for a penalty as an excuse for his own clumsiness.

79' Rojo leaps high into the sky to lick a header away from Muller, who was looking to attack a Kroos corner. Germany's turn to orchestrate a spell of pressure as the white shirts swam into the opposition half. Can they find a breakthrough with time fast ticking away?

78' SubstitutionGonzalo HiguaínRodrigo Palacio

78' That's the end of Higuain's World Cup. It could have been his night on more than one occasion. A disallowed goal and what looks to be, in hindsight, an awful miss from a one-on-one in the first half is what he has to take from his outing. On comes Palacio as expected.

76' It's grinding down to a standstill in the Maracana. Watching both teams try to break down the other is like trying to crawl out of a cement mixer. Sabella recognizes the critical period on hand and is seen readying a change. Palacio looks to be the man coming on.

74' We haven't seen a lot from Messi since he missed that sitter at the start of the second half. He makes his first notable contribution in a very long while. Cutting in from the right flank onto his left foot, he takes a few touches to angle himself for the shot, but curls it well wide in the end. Germany pressured him well on that play.

 Thomas Mueller of Germany stretches for a cross during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
Thomas Mueller of Germany stretches for a cross during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

72' This game has had a few spicy moments but overall, I have to say that Nicola Rozzili has kept a wonderful handle on things, given what's at stake. He's dished out yellow cards to Schweinsteiger, Howedes, Aguero and Mascherano - every single one of them warranted.

70' The sun has set in Rio de Janeiro now. The floodlights have come on in the Maracana. We're still goalless, but for one glorious second, Germany look to have broken through. Muller's ball was on the toes of Schurrle for a moment but he couldn't bring it under his control when faced with Romero. The Argentine keeper can gather.

68' A quarter of the World Cup final, or thereabouts, left to play. I'm not about to call this one any time soon. It's taken a turn into monotony in the last 10 minutes or so. I'd say that Argentina still look the more purposeful side in the second half. Both sides have made one sub, no word on a second change for either as yet though.

66' Aguero goes flying into Schweinsteiger near the far touchline, causing referee Rizzoli to reach for the yellow card once again. It's getting very scrappy all of a sudden. Dirty tackles and no goals on the board after an hour, it's the 2010 final all over again!

65' Yellow Card Sergio Agüero

64' Yellow Card Javier Mascherano

64' Mascherano is the latest name in the book for Argentina now as he comes back late to cut through Muller. No argument there from the midfielder, who has been a rock for La Albiceleste throughout the tournament. Particularly crucial was his sterling showing against Netherlands in the semi finals.

63' Aguero shows good muscle and good heart to win a corner against the might of Hummels. Messi takes the resulting delivery but is unable to cause any problems. Germany restart with Neuer's short goal kick, but the keeper is soon hurried into an errant clearance.

Germany's defender Benedikt Hoewedes (L) and Argentina's forward Gonzalo Higuain vie for the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images
Germany's defender Benedikt Hoewedes (L) and Argentina's forward Gonzalo Higuain vie for the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Getty Images

61' After a period of stagnation in the middle, Germany attack but it all loooks too rushed. Schurrle runs with pace to burn with the ball down the left hand side and spies Muller making a run centrally. He plays an early ball in, but Ozil gets in the way. It bounces off the Arsenal man's shin and out for a goal kick.

59' Higuain is back with us as Germany get the ball rolling down at the other end of the field. A deep cross in towards the heart of the box it met with a downward header from Klose, but it's all too easy for Romero to read and gather. Still, you get the feeling that this game is on the verge of an explosion, for better or for worse.

57' No foul for Higuain, who remonstrates for a moment before going down in need of treatment. He certainly took a heavy blow from Neuer there. The keeper just about pulled that interception off - he used his hand to punch on the very edge of the box and made contact with the ball just before taking out El Pipita.

56' HIGUAIN IS FURIOUS! A long ball over the top from Zabaleta sees Neuer stride to the edge of his box to meet Higuain. With an almighty leap, the German keeper punches the ball away just before clattering into the Napoli man. The referee decides in favour of Germany!

54' Schurrle causes all kinds of confusion in the Argentine ranks as he cuts in from the left flank. He looks to be tripped up, but the referee allows play to continue since Muller advanced with the ball into the box. Garay has to intervene to clear the ball out for a corner.

Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi (C) controls the ball during their 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi (C) controls the ball during their 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

52' The intrigue in this game continues as Germany begin to make inroads into the opposition half. Ozil is halted in his tracks by a crunching Zabaleta tackle just on the corner of the box. Germany reset but just like the first half, they're finding gaps hard to come by.

50' Sabella has lit a fire under his players to start the second half. They've come out with a bang. Germany have barely gotten the ball out of their own half as blue shirts swarm all over them. Another dangerous ball requires Boateng to stretch to get the ball back to Neuer.

48' CHANCE RIGHT AT THE OFF! And it's a HUGE one for Messi! Germany leave space on the edge of the area for him to exploit and that he does, driving into the box before lashing an effort the wrong side of the far post! You could almost feel the Maracana crowd hold their breath!

47' One change to report from the break. Aguero replaces Lavezzi up top for Argentina. The PSG man was lively in the first half, but Sabella gets the more clinical Manchester City striker on the pitch - though it remains to be seen if his thigh is fully healed. We may see Messi drop just behind Aguero and Higuain now.

46' Substitution: Ezequiel Lavezzi OUT, Sergio Agüero IN

46' Here we go again!

Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli (L) shows a yellow card to Germany's midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (R) during their 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli (L) shows a yellow card to Germany's midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (R) during their 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

FIRST HALF

The first half wasn't a bore by any means though. Both sides clearly have designs on how they want to win this game. Germany, as ever, are dominating all of the ball, patiently probing their way through. Meanwhile, Argentina are happy to tempt them forward and use their pace to get in behind.

Spare a thought for Christoph Kramer. Called in to replace Khedira at the last second, he lasted just over half an hour before leaving the pitch in a daze, following some antics by Garay. That enforced and early change could come back to bite Low should this game go the full 120 minutes.

Argentina have had their own bad luck at the other end. Higuain missed a one-on-one and saw a goal correctly ruled off for offside. Lavezzi was also blocked pretty much on the goal line from turning in a Messi cross. A lot of close shaves, but neither keeper has been beaten (legally) yet.

That nearly ended in all kinds of dread for Argentina. A Howedes header at the death that threatened to leave a dent in the post was just shy of hitting the target. Such are the margins by which titles are won and lost.

45' + 2' That's it for the first half. Goalless in the World Cup final.

45' + 1' GERMANY RATTLE THE POST! Argentina avoid a catastrophe right at the end of the first half. A German corner is met with an absolutely FEROCIOUS header from Howedes which leaves the near post shaking! The rebound touches off Muller's stomach, but that draws the attention of the linesman, who correctly calls an offside on the striker.

44' Mascherano coughs up the ball disgustingly in midfield which invites Germany to storm forward. Ozil works the ball to Kroos who stands primed in his zone right on the top of the 18 yard area. Shockingly, given his deadliness from that range, his shot lacks any kind of oomph and is an easy smother for Romero.

Germany's forward Miroslav Klose (L) looks on as Argentina's goalkeeper Sergio Romero (top makes a save next to Argentina's defender Pablo Zabaleta during the 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Germany's forward Miroslav Klose (L) looks on as Argentina's goalkeeper Sergio Romero (top makes a save next to Argentina's defender Pablo Zabaleta during the 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

42' The referee has to step in to prevent a fuse from igniting here. This game is starting to bubble under the surface. Muller gets involved in a bit of afters with Rojo, which catches the attention of Mascherano. No card from the referee but a stern warning for all involved.

40' BOATENG COMES UP HUGE! Messi takes control of the ball in a teasing position and needs no second invitation to have a run on goal. He gets to that favourable zone on the right byline once again and squares it in for Lavezzi. The PSG man seems certain to do the rest, but he's met by a stern block from the German defender!

38' Schurrle once again looks set to be decisive off the bench. He's moved straight into the front three alongside Muller and Klose. Ozil has dropped into the hole just behind the trio, with Kroos shifting even further back to man the centre of the midfield with Schweinsteiger.

36' ROMERO WITH A SPECTACULAR SAVE! With a drop of his shoulder, Muller storms down the left flank and plays a ball into the box that is begging to be hit. You don't need to ask Schurrle that question twice. He strikes it with power and a slight nick off Ozil sees Romero dive to his right to parry! However, the flag is up. Ozil's intervention was from an offside position.

Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina scores a goal past Manuel Neuer of Germany but it is disallowed due to offsides being called during their 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Gonzalo Higuain of Argentina scores a goal past Manuel Neuer of Germany but it is disallowed due to offsides being called during their 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

34' Yellow Card: Benedikt Höwedes

34' Howedes should make a small sacrifice to the football gods at half time for him still being on the pitch. He kicked out late, high and recklessly on Zabaleta, getting nowhere near the ball. Referee Nicola Rizzoli sees fit only to award him a yellow card. Not quite De Jong on Alonso in 2010, but still a lucky escape in my book.

32' Substitution: Christoph Kramer OUT, Andre Schürrle IN

30' RULED OUT! Argentina thought for sure that they were ahead! Lavezzi's low cross was slotted in by Higuain, but in a great call by the linesman, the Napoli striker is called for an offside! Higuain celebrates with vein-popping intensity, and it's almost cruel to witness the moment that he realizes that his goal will not stand.

29' Yellow Card: Bastian Schweinsteiger

28' Nearing on seven long hours since Argentina have last conceded. The last man to break their resistance was Ahmed Musa, who struck twice in the group stages in a losing 2-3 effort for Nigeria. That was quite a game, by the way, watching Musa go toe to toe with Messi (also two goals) for one glorious half.

26' Muller's crowded out of a shot from the top of the box after a nifty feed by Lahm. The Germans are probing and attempting to grind Argentina down to a nub here, but the men in blue are holding firm. There's hardly any space for Die Mannschaft to exploit on the Maracana pitch.

24' Germany have been in control of possession but it's Argentina who have thrice made inroads into their penalty area. La Albiceleste certainly have the speed and movement to trouble the German back four. Higuain, Messi and Lavezzi can all beat their markers for pace if the opportunity should arise.

Fans of Argentina react before the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Fans of Argentina react before the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

22' NEARLY AN IMPLOSION FROM GERMANY! Toni Kroos' heart is pounding out of his chest. What appeared to be a routine high ball is catastrophically headed back towards goal and into the path of Higuain. The Napoli man bears down on goal clear of his markers but lashes a half-volley of a finish wide! At the VERY least, he needed to hit the target from such a position!

20' Looks like the physios have patched up Kramer in time to ensure his continued participation in this game. That break in play has taken the sting of what was a slowly bubbling game, with Germany now content to pass the ball patiently among their defensive players.

18' Well isn't this something. The man who was a late, late replacement for Khedira and is starting in his first ever World Cup game has hit the deck. Kramer is down on the turf after a pretty forceful intervention from Garay. What a shame for him if his evening was to end in such a cruel manner.

16' Ozil takes charge of the set piece and it's whipped in towards the far post. There's an Argentine body in the way first though and the ball is soon worked out for a Germany corner. Kroos takes charge of the delivery, but it's a daisy cutter that is too easily hacked clear.

14' Foul on Klose near the edge of the box. Demichelis complains, but replays show that the German striker just about beat him to the ball before his late challenge. Another solid free kick position for Germany so for their sake, let's hope that they execute better this time.

12' Some lovely football on show from both sides in the opening exchanges. Crucially, they've both shown intent to take the game to each other. I'd give Argentina the edge so far, they've definitely looked more direct. The right side of Germany's defence has been breached twice already.

10' An absolutely breathtaking run from Messi leaves Hummels huffing and puffing in vain to catch up to the fleet-footed Barcelona man. He gets dangerously close to goal down the byline and pulls the ball back into the mixer, but Schweinsteiger is on hand to clear before anyone in blue can touch it.

8' It's a race for the Golden Boot here between Muller and Messi this evening. The German forward just about leads his Argentine counterpart by five goals to four. James Rodriguez of quarter-finalists Colombia still rules the roost with six. Can either player make a further name for themselves here?

Germany's defender Mats Hummels (back) follows Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi during their 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Germany's defender Mats Hummels (back) follows Argentina's forward and captain Lionel Messi during their 2014 FIFA World Cup final match at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

6' Germany attempt to hit back down the other end of the field. Muller, Lahm and Ozil all get involved in the buildup, with the Arsenal man endeavouring to play a testing ball into the centre of the Argentine box. Demichelis deals with the danger though before Germany can pounce on the delivery.

4' GREAT COUNTER! The free kick from Kroos is slammed right into the wall and that sparks the Albiceleste back down the other end of the pitch! Higuain is released on the right hand side towards the byeline and he slides a low ball in that flashes across the face of Neuer's goal!

3' Muller tries to find a gap that perhaps wasn't there to begin with, but his determination forces a free kick in a great position, dead centre. Rojo, cutting in from left back, took out the German top scorer without hesitation. This is a really promising position for Die Mannschaft.

1' Here we go! The final of the 20th World Cup is up and running!

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Fans of Argentina react before the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images
Fans of Argentina react before the 2014 FIFA World Cup final football match between Germany and Argentina at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on July 13, 2014. Photo: Getty Images

It's not been plain sailing to the final for Argentina. They leaned heavily on Messi during the group stages, with the Barca star scoring four times, including game winners against Iran and Bosnia and Herzegovina to give his side three wins from three. That put the under-performing Albiceleste supporting cast under the spotlight, with Higuain and Aguero among those playing below their best.

Die Mannschaft ooze quality out of every orifice. They have players at the elite level in every position. Golden Glove candidate Manuel Neuer, that Rolls Royce of a centre back Mats Hummels, captain fantastic Philipp Lahm, playmaking enigma Mesut Ozil and the clinical and versatile Thomas Muller - these are all absolutely world class names at the very top of their field.

And in the other corner, we have Germany. A team that dominates thanks to the complete lack of individual domination. They've not lost in 17 games, winning 12 straight. In fact, if you take away a 4-3 reverse to the USA last summer, Germany have not tasted defeat in 27 long matches.

At 26, it's really the perfect age for him to make his mark. He's not scored since the group stages, but I wager all will be forgotten in a snap if he's decisive on the night. An added bonus for Argentina is his very presence in the World Cup final at the Maracana - the Mecca for the football of their eternal rivals Brazil.

You didn't think I was about to forget about Leo, did you? It's not a stretch to say that his legacy is on the line tonight. Having won everything at club level, the World Cup has long been his great white buffalo, the missing jewel in his crown. Should he win this tonight, then there will be nothing standing in the way of his career trajectory towards being the greatest footballer of all time.

That makes it a huge game for Enzo Perez, who continues in Alejandro Sabella's XI. He lines up alongside Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano in the midfield. Sergio Romero is on goal after his heroics in the semi-final shootout win against Netherlands. Up top, it's a front three of Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and that man Lionel Messi.

The huge news for Argentina is that Angel Di Maria, Golden Ball nominee, is only fit enough for the bench having failed to recover from a thigh injury that kept him out of the semis. He's joined there by Sergio Aguero, who's not been risked from the start after a tentative return from a thigh problem in the previous round.

It's Sami Khedira in midfield for Germany once again, with Joachim Low opting for the sensible pick of captain Philipp Lahm at full back. Mats Hummels, who hasn't always been in his prime physical condition for the tournament, has been ruled fit to start. He partners Jerome Boateng, who has once again beat Per Mertesacker to a starting berth.

Germany have stuck with the same XI that smashed Brazil into the dirt in the previous round. Miroslav Klose is once again chosen ahead of Mario Gotze, which will move top scorer Thomas Muller into a wide role. Mesut Ozil is also chosen to start on the flank, a position that he's not been entirely comfortable in.

Argentina Subs: Andujar, Orion, F.Fernandez, Campagnaro, Basanta, A.Fernandez, Gago, Alvarez, Rodriguez, Palacio, Aguero.

Germany Subs: Weidenfeller, Zieler, Durm, Mertesacker, Ginter, Grosskreutz, Kramer, Draxler, Gotze, Podolski, Schurrle.

Argentina (4-3-3): Romero; Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo; Biglia, Mascherano, Perez; Messi, Lavezzi, Higuain.

Germany (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Lahm, Boateng, Hummels, Howedes; Khedira, Schweinsteiger; Muller, Kroos, Ozil; Klose.

We've just gotten the lineups confirmed, so let's have a look.

Commentary: Goal dot com

Published: 1:30 am Monday, July 14, 2014

Last modified: 10:07 pm Monday, July 14, 2014

TAGS: Germany world cup Lionel Messi Argentina Brazil 2014 Thomas Muller Mario Götze

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