13 July 2014 23:51
An eight-year journey concluded in the Maracana as Germany’s transformation from efficient machine to attacking force was complete.
Famed for a defensive style, ruthless brilliance at penalties and a little good fortune in their early years, the European nation had always been the ugly sisters with Brazil leading the way as Cinderella.
Yet the foundations laid by Jurgen Klinsmann in 2006 have been expertly built upon by Joachim Low, who has finally cleansed Germany of their clichéd reputation.
In truth, that quest probably ended in the semi-final, when they annihilated the renowned guardians of attacking football at their own game, in their own backyard.
But history does not remember runners-up and, as impressive as that 7-1 drubbing of Brazil in Belo Horizonte was, only a fourth FIFA World Cup triumph would finish their expedition.
Things did not start well, with Sami Khedira suffering a calf injury in the warm-up and his replacement, Christoph Kramer, being withdrawn after 31 minutes due to a head complaint that will ensure the concussion debate rages on.
That came amid Argentina dominance, the South Americans evoking the spirit of Old Germany with off-the-ball rigidity and defensive nous.
The reward should have been a goal at the other end, only for Gonzalo Higuain to badly fluff his lines following a rare Toni Kroos lapse.
Germany rattled the woodwork just before the break through Benedikt Howedes, yet were counting their lucky stars just after as Lionel Messi spurned a great chance when pulling wide.
If goals were lacking, it was not due to the intensity – which was high throughout as the teams swapped chances. The best opportunity fell to a hapless Palacio, whose lob looped wide.
Quite right, too, because this was Germany’s night; the glut of Argentina missed chances confirmed as much.
Ironically, the European side had blended their old face with the new one as good fortune was followed by a moment of brilliance, Andre Schurrle’s fine cross finding Mario Gotze, who chested and finished expertly.
That the decisive moment summed up their new-found verve was fitting.
Armed with the passion and new ideas implemented by Klinsmann, the counter-attacking brilliance which took the competition by storm in South Africa and an emphasis on pressing taken from 2010 winners Spain, Germany’s Class of 2014 finally found the perfect formula.
It took eight years to materialise but the end result was surely worth the wait.
A first World Cup win since 1990 represented just reward, their charge featuring the kind of beauty the previous three were lacking.
Indeed, Germany are suddenly the neutrals’ choice and – with the likes of Kroos, Mats Hummels and Gotze yet to reach their prime – it seems unlikely the new age of fans will be waiting 24 years for further success on the biggest stage.