Germany beat Argentina 1-0 to win its fourth World Cup, taking soccer’s biggest prize for the first time in 24 years.
Substitute Mario Goetze scored in the 113th minute to allow the Europeans to avoid a penalty shootout last night in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.
Germany is the first European team to capture the World Cup in Latin America. Its last title -- in 1990 -- also came over two-time champion Argentina. Lionel Messi, a record four-time World Player of the Year, will have to wait at least another four years to win his first World Cup.
“It’s unbelievable what we have achieved,” German captain Philipp Lahm said. “We just stuck to our path and at the end we’re standing here as World Champions. It’s an unbelievable feeling. The team stayed calm and patient, we knew that we had something left at the end.”
Goetze broke into the Argentine penalty area to reach a return pass from Andre Schuerrle, cushioning the ball on his chest and volleying past Sergio Romero in goal. It came seven minutes before the end of extra time, and was the first time in the month-long tournament that Argentina trailed.
Bit of Luck
“We had the best chances but we didn’t take them,” Argentina’s Javier Mascherano said. “And we only had to last another five minutes. The pain is immense. We just didn’t have that little bit of luck that you need in a final.”
The tournament’s 2.7 goals per game is the highest scoring average since 1998 in France. There were 171 goals in the 64 matches, tying the mark set in the ’98 event.
The South Americans had chances, with forward Gonzalo Higuain shooting wide in the first half when he was one-on-one with Manuel Neuer, who was named the tournament’s best goalkeeper.
In extra time, Schuerrle hit the first shot of the period straight at Romero in the Argentine goal, while Rodrigo Palacio could only flick over the head of Neuer and out of play at the other end.
German midfielder Sami Khedira was injured in the warmups and was replaced by Christoph Kramer, who was substituted after 30 minutes following a blow to the head.
Through the first 20 minutes, the Europeans had 58 percent of possession, but didn’t have anything to show for the advantage. By 20 minutes into the second half, the advantage had grown to 63 percent of possession.
In the first half, Argentina had the best chance, with Higuain being played onside by a header back from Toni Kroos, but the Argentine forward bashed the shot wide.
Higuain had the ball in the German net after 30 minutes but was ruled offside. Kramer’s replacement, Schuerrle, forced a save from Romero, but Mesut Ozil was flagged for being offside.
In the 40th minute, Messi, who was named the best player of the tournament, ran up the German right, getting past Mats Hummels and in on Manuel Neuer but the ball was cleared by Jerome Boateng.
Just before halftime, Benedikt Hoewedes headed the ball off the post from a corner kick, but Romero was able to control the ball.
The first chance of the second half fell to Messi, who shot wide past a beaten Neuer in the opening minute. Miroslav Klose, who holds the record as the tournament’s career scorer, headed straight at Romero, and the 36-year-old was later substituted, replaced by Goetze just before the end of regulation time.
“Germany are a great team,” Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella told journalists. “The game had its ups and downs, and we had some clear chances. They were fresher. We had our opportunities today, but we needed more efficiency.”
Kroos had a chance 10 minutes before the end of regulation time when Ozil feed him a pass just outside the penalty area but the midfielder’s shot trickled wide.
Germany’s team, known as Die Mannschaft, draws even with Italy on four world titles since the inaugural 1930 edition. Only Brazil, with five championships, has more. It was Germany’s eighth time in the final, more than any other country.
The six other previous editions in Latin America were won by Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay.
Last night’s victory made Germany the favorite for the next tournament, in Russia. U.K. bookmaker William Hill set odds of 5-1 for the team to repeat in 2018, meaning a successful $1 bet would return $5 plus the original stake. Argentina and 2010 champion Spain are 7-1 bets.
On July 8, Germany demolished Brazil 7-1 in the semifinal in Belo Horizonte, causing some home fans to break down in tears and leave the stadium early. The Germans scored five goals in an 18-minute stretch of the first half.
A World Cup host had never previously lost a game by more than three goals, and Brazil hadn’t allowed more than five in an entire World Cup since 1998.
It was the third final between Germany and Argentina. Diego Maradona’s Argentina beat Germany 3-2 in Mexico in 1986 and the Germans avenged the defeat with a 1-0 win in Italy in 1990.
Germany also won the tournament in Switzerland in 1954 and when it was the host nation in 1974.
Messi, Argentina’s 27-year-old captain, was voted FIFA world player of the year four times and won three European titles with Barcelona. Argentina reached the final by beating the Netherlands in a penalty shootout in the semifinals.
The German victory came as a relief for the hosts, which spent $11 billion on the tournament. Brazilians supported Germany despite the semifinal loss because they didn’t want regional rivals winning in the Maracana.
Argentines had flooded into Brazil throughout the month-long tournament, and on the eve of the final the countries land border was gridlocked with cars packed with sky-blue and white shirted supporters.
About 12,000 Argentines crossed into Brazil by road between July 11 and 12, according to authorities.
The countries define each other with a soccer rivalry that dates back decades. Both claim to have produced the best player, Maradona of Argentina and Pele, the Brazilian whose three-World Cup titles remains a record. Brazil supporters have goaded their South American rivals about Pele’s personal haul being better than Argentina’s two successes.