Germany won its 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 Sunday.RIO DE JANEIRO — 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 the team was humiliated 14 years ago at the European Championship.
The mission is complete. Germany has reached the finish line and nobody can dispute that it is 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 a fourth World Cup and a first in 24 years.
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As the players celebrated on the pitch with their families at full time, the Germans 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, but it has a whole team of them.
If it wasn’t for Spain’s dominance of international football, Germany 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 semifinal massacre of Brazil will go down as one of the finest performances in World Cup history and the team was never going to replicate those heights on Sunday. But from the first minute, Germany was superior to Argentina, playing with technical quality, defensive solidity and attacking fluency.
The players 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 halftime, they took it all in stride.
Gotze was named man-of-the-match for his winner, but nobody epitomized 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 percent 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 a deserved and popular world champion.
Hundreds of thousands of Argentinians traveled 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 rival win a World Cup in their country.
They probably bought their tickets expecting to see Brazil win its own World Cup.
But Germany has shown everyone how it should be done.