World Cup 2014 – Final: Germany 1, Argentina 0

German midfield general Sami Khedira, scorer of one and creator of more in the Brazilian mauling, had to be withdrawn from the starting eleven after picking up a calf injury in the warm-up, meaning Cristoph Kramer would earn a first senior international start.

All indications during the first bursts of play pointed to a plot where Germany would control the game through having the majority of possession. Unfortunately for Kramer, Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay put a shoulder through his jaw in a collision that would see Garay get 1-2 weeks if the AFL were running the World Cup. Although he was allowed to continue after a quick medical assessment, the after-effects of the knock to Kramer meant he had to be helped off, surely throwing Joachim Loew’s already disrupted plans into disarray. Forward Andre Schuerrle was his replacement.

On 20 minutes, Argentina should have taken the lead. A defensive header by Toni Kroos fell instead for Gonzalo Higuain who was nonchalantly returning from an offside position. All of a sudden he had a golden chance to put his side ahead, but he pulled his shot well wide. Roughly ten minutes after, Higuain was as shocked as anyone to find himself so free of defenders when he dispatched Ezequiel Lavezzi’s cross past Manuel Neuer and into the net. As he ran off, celebrating wildly, the world realised that he had been ruled offside, and the goal would not stand.

Moments before half-time, German centre-back Benedikt Howedes rose unmarked at a corner and, from nor more than 6 yards, hit the post.

That anybody would score became doubtful when Messi pulled a shot wide from a position he would usually score from with his opposite foot. You could understand the pressure getting to Howedes, Higuain even, but not Messi. This was his time to shine, not falter.

The multitude of half-chances created in the second half probably added up to about 5 genuine chances, but that wasn’t how the match was being played. The usual flashes of brilliance from Messi weren’t resulting in the usual goals. He had not scored nor assisted yet. Germany must have been satisfied.

To be honest, the second half was, in all, a bit of a fizzer. Regulation time ended goalless, which spoke volumes about the organisation of both defences and the manner in which they set up when the opposition had the ball. It also reflected the weakness in finishing from both teams, but it could also be argued that most of the half-chances weren’t allowed to develop into something decisive because of the tight, limited space in which the shot could be taken.

From the outset of extra-time it was evident both teams were on their last legs, that they would have to work as hard as they had done throughout the entire tournament to prevent a goal against them and even harder to score one themselves. The quality made way for desperate defending, reckless tackles by players lagging behind their opponent and highly optimistic passes forwards in search of that elusive goal.

Finally, Germany scored a goal. With 112 minutes played, Argentina were caught out on the right side of their defence, leaving Schuerrle to make a gleeful run into attack on the flank. He drifted a cross over Marcos Rojo and onto fellow substitute Mario Goetze’s chest, where, in one movement, he turned and guided the ball past the oncoming Sergio Romero and into the net.

Argentina tried recklessly to make every one of the dying seconds count, and in doing so began to recklessly move the ball forward at unrealistic speeds, throwing any sort of game-plan they might have had for such a situation out of the window, and with it went their hopes of taking the game to penalties.

Instead of it being fitting that Messi scored a stoppage time winner or dominated as Maradona once did, it was fitting, given the night’s proceedings, that he blazed a free-kick well over the bar in the last meaningful act of the game. It summed up the fact that the strength of Germany as a unit had beaten what was, for all intents and purposes, a one man team.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.

Comments

  1. Skip of Skipton says

    I reckon Argentina gained less by swapping Lavezzi for Aguerro at half time. Would have dragged Aguerro for Palacio and left Higuain out there. He was looking his most useful for the whole tournament.

    The MRP would have given Neuer a holiday for his clean-up of Higuain also.

  2. from 1/2 time of regulation until the exquisite goal this was a disappointing game.
    That German goalkeeper certainly has a presence – where does he play Tom (short quote Bayern?).
    It seems the best team won, despite their manager borrowing Mokbel’s rug.

  3. and, Tom, everyone has Messi in the 2 best players in the world, but was the Golden Ball Award for him a bit token?…he has been very good, of course, but not great this tournament. Is it just that no one else really took the game by the scruff of the neck? I loved Rodriguez but they needed one more win to hoist him to the next tier. Probably, despite all of the goals, it was the defenders who were most impressive as well as “team structures”, so Messi was an easy fallback. For services to the game, he’s a deserved champ – but maybe not on this occasion.
    also, as you know, i saw little of the first half. I was critical of the rest of the game. In perspective, it makes sense that coaches tightened defence at half time and strikers got anxious. I stil lreckon it was not a classic game, but a pretty good final with a deserved winner.

  4. Gregor Lewis says

    Superlative writing Tom!
    Love the immediacy you generate with the style you have chosen to introduce us to the opening developments in the game.

    Was that a conscious effort, or just the way it came out when you sat down to write it?

    Either way, that was some evocative excellence from you. An immensely enjoyable read Tom & spiced with the shrewd clarity of analysis I have come to expect.

    Splendid!

    Two things:

    Three MRP (AFL) moments for mine –

    – as you mentioned above
    – Neuer on Higuain, as I think Skip mentioned above also.
    – ‘Three Stooges’ moment when (I think) it was Rojo and teammate (can’t for life of me remember who), tracking Klose to sideline, when Klose saw the shoulder charge coming, and stepped out the way, for Rojo to almost clean his teammate up.

    What colour card to you get for that?

    (interesting with all the ‘head is sancrosanct’ hand-wringing going on nowadays in elite ‘contact’ sports, the once derided ‘sissy’ sport has featured two of the cleanest ‘shoulder charge cleanouts’ you are ever likely to see this past week …

    … the young lad this morning & Zabaletta against Holland in the semi.

    High contact; Forceful impact; Dangerously deliberate conduct – the AFL MRP ‘savants’ would be absolutely creaming themselves over their assessment of these & others mentioned above.

    Last thing …

    … If you had’ve told me pre-game that it would have been decided by a sharp left footed cross from a charging winger, with two defenders at his heels, to be chested down feather light (with absolutely no hint of handball) by a short nuggety forward, who in one smooth movement, then volleyed it past the charging keeper, on his left foot …

    … Then I would have said ‘World Cup Champions’ Argentina, as Di Maria had setup Messi with history fulfilling decisiveness.

    Just goes to show. Even in ‘earnest’ world-halting contests, irony abounds.

    Still, I think the right ‘Team’ won.

    grl

  5. Tom Riordan says

    Crio,
    If you’d said at the beginning of the tournament that Argentina would be in the final then I think Messi would have been the assumed winner, but that’s not how it should have played out. I read an opinion piece on eurosport that reckoned FIFA had 2 trophies; one with Messi’s name on it and the other with Neymar’s, to be awarded to whoever got the furthest.

    Greg,
    Thanks for the support! It was how I intended to write this piece so I’m pleased it came across that way.
    Great point about the winning goal, it wasn’t necessarily to script was it!

  6. cowshedend says

    Tom, wonderful review.
    Makes you wonder how the Dutch are feeling now, if they had shown any semblance of flare in their semi they would have gone to the dance.
    Instead they chose to park the bus and wait on the Argees to make an error.

  7. Tom, brilliant writing… very much enjoyed it.
    Not having watched the match – It puts me in mind of that old adage about it being better to read the book before you see the movie…
    In this case – I’ve read your report and feel I gained more insight into the play and it’s sub-plots and players… than I would have if I’d seen the match!

  8. Tom, there have been critics of “the team of the tournament” selected.
    Just on World Cup form, what’s your 11 in formation?

  9. Tom Riordan says

    Crio, challenge accepted.

    Manuel Neuer (GER);
    Phillip Lahm (GER), Mats Hummels (GER), Ron Vlaar (NED), Pablo Zabaleta (ARG);
    Javier Mascherano (ARG), Toni Kroos (GER);
    Arjen Robben (NED), James Rodriguez (COL), Lionel Messi (ARG);
    Thomas Muller (GER)

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