COMMENT: Germany won their fourth World Cup as Mario Gotze's strike in extra-time sealed a 1-0 win over Argentina in the final at the Maracana on SundayBy Greg Stobart at the Maracana
Immortality. Not for Lionel Messi but for a group of Germany players who have conquered the world.
For Mario Gotze - the second-half substitute who made history as he volleyed in the winner deep into extra-time.
For the people running German football who decided on a complete restructure of the country’s youth system when they were humiliated 14 years ago at the European Championship.
Their mission is complete. Germany have reached the finish line and nobody can dispute that they are now the best team on the planet. Germans in beer houses from Rio to Berlin can raise a glass and toast a team that won the country their fourth World Cup and a first in 24 years.
As they celebrated on the pitch with their families at full-time, the Germany players could not hold back their tears of joy. Even Angela Merkel, their Chancellor, was on the receiving end of hugs from nation’s new heroes.
This was the culmination of a project that started in earnest in 2002 when changes were implemented requiring all 36 clubs in the two Bundesliga divisions to operate centrally regulated academies.
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It has created a conveyor belt of top quality talents who play with technical brilliance and attacking cohesion. Germany may not have one star man like Lionel Messi for Argentina. They have a whole team of them.
If it wasn’t for Spain’s dominance of international football, they might not have had to wait so long to win a major international tournament. But it was worth it.
It was worth keeping faith in Joachim Low for the last eight years, backing the coach’s vision to reach this moment.
The semi-final massacre of Brazil will go down as one of the finest performances in World Cup history and they were never going to reach those heights here. But from the first minute, they were superior to Argentina, playing with technical quality, defensive solidity and attacking fluency.
They dealt with every obstacle. From the pre-match injury that forced out Sami Khedira during the warm-up to the concussion that meant his replacement Christophe Kramer did not even make it to half-time, they took it all in their stride.
Gotze was named man-of-the-match for his winner, but nobody epitomised Germany’s display better than Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The Bayern Munich midfielder ended the match as a wounded warrior, sporting a cut below his eye, but for 120 minutes he controlled the tempo of the game, demanding the ball from colleagues and making his team tick.
Germany had 64 per cent possession and played over 300 more passes than Argentina. While the South Americans appeared to be preparing for penalties, Low’s men always backed themselves and their philosophy.
They might have won in normal time had Benedikt Howedes’ header from six yards not crashed back off the post or Toni Kroos finished better from 18 yards in the second half.
In the end, they made their quality count with a goal worthy of the moment. Andre Schurrle crossed from the left and Gotze finished as though in a training exercise, bringing the ball down with his chest before slamming his volley across goal with his weaker left foot.
From that moment, there was never a doubt that Germany would hold on to become deserved and popular world champions.
Hundreds of thousands of Argentines travelled to Rio de Janeiro for the final, but the Germany players would have felt equally at home at the Maracana.
In addition to their 8,000 or so supporters, Low’s men also had the backing of the local Brazilians whose worst nightmare would be to see their greatest rivals win a World Cup in their country.
They probably bought their tickets expecting to see Brazil win their own World Cup.
But Germany have shown everyone how it should be done.