BY DARREN GOON Follow on Twitter
|MAN OF THE MATCH
Germany 1-0 Argentina
What a season it’s been for Bastian Schweinsteiger. Two ankle surgeries limited his influence as Bayern Munich claimed a domestic double, but he was not going to let the World Cup pass him by. Eased back into the team, he has been ever-present since entering the fray as a substitute against Ghana, and put in a commanding performance to urge his team to the biggest trophy of all.
Twice, he had to adjust his role in this game. Midfield partner Sami Khedira was ruled out just before kick-off with a calf injury, and his replacement Christoph Kramer had his bell rang after a collision with Ezequiel Garay and was replaced after half an hour. Schweinsteiger took the middle of the pitch and grew more imperious the further the match wore on.
He was everywhere, intercepting a Lionel Messi cut-back at the edge of his box one moment, sending a cross from the right wing the next. Unfortunate to receive the first booking of the evening for a soft touch on Ezequiel Lavezzi, Schweinsteiger dealt well with Messi’s runs from deep, while keeping his team’s engine ticking.
Most of Germany’s moves went through him, completing 90% of his 105 passes, 30 in the attacking third, as he covered 15km all over the pitch. Defensively, he recovered the ball 11 times, the joint-highest with teammate Toni Kroos, and won four of his five tackles.
Oh, and tackles. Schweinsteiger was the most-fouled player on the pitch, particularly in extra-time, as Argentina looked to assert some dominance in midfield. At one point, he even received seemingly-synchronised simultaneous sliding challenges from Lucas Biglia and Javier Mascherano. With ten minutes to play, Sergio Aguero caught him in the face with a stray arm, drawing blood from a cut just below his right eye. Schweini was stitched up on the side of the pitch, but quickly returned to his feet, to demand the ball and organise play.
Minutes later, Mario Götze deftly-controlled Andre Schürrle’s left-wing cross, and ended Sergio Romero’s 485-minute run without conceding a goal, the third-longest in World Cup history, with a wonderful volley.
Germany won 1-0 on the night to become the first European team to win a World Cup on South American soil. It’s been said that Brazil have Neymar, Argentina have Messi, while Germany have a team. The conductor of their team on this magical night? Bastian Schweinsteiger.