14 July 2014 00:09
A dramatic FIFA World Cup had a fitting finale as Germany beat Argentina in extra time. Here we look at where the final was won and lost.
Higuain lets Kroos off the hook
Toni Kroos was one of the undoubted stars of the tournament. The midfield maestro dazzled with consistent top-drawer performances, particularly in the semi-final drubbing of Brazil. However, the Bayern Munich man left German supporters with their hearts in their mouths in the 17th minute of the showpiece when his attempted header back to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer fell straight into the path of Gonzalo Higuain. The Napoli striker is usually so clinical in the final third, but in front of a full Maracana and millions watching worldwide, the 26-year-old snatched his half-volley wide, much to the relief of the German bench and, in particular, Kroos.
Higuain foiled by the offside flag
Higuain must have felt the stars were aligned against him on the half-hour mark. The former Real Madrid man showed his predatory instincts to side-foot home Ezequiel Lavezzi’s low centre from eight yards. Cue mass celebrations from the forward, until he realised – some time later – that the assistant referee had flagged for offside.
Howedes hits the post
Germany turned the screw as the match reached half-time, with a host of half chances coming and going. But the best opportunity of the first period fell to Germany full-back Benedikt Howedes, who was inexplicably left unmarked at a corner. He timed his run to perfection to meet Kroos’ delivery, only for his effort to crash against the left-hand post and rebound to safety.
Messi misses chance to silence critics
Despite being arguably the best player of his generation, Lionel Messi has faced criticism in some quarters for failing to replicate his unbelievable domestic form with Barcelona on the world stage for his country. Four goals ahead of Sunday’s final had gone some way to rubbishing that notion, but the 27-year-old had the perfect opportunity to once and for all silence the doubters shortly after the break. Having sprung the offside trap to take ownership of a throughball, he went one-on-one with Neuer on his favoured left foot only to drag a shot wide of the far right-hand post.
Romero denies Schurrle
Normal time was not enough to separate the two sides, and a wonderful World Cup was fittingly extended by an extra 30 minutes. The final stages of the regulation period had seen some expert defending to keep the scores level, but in the first minute of additional time Schurrle’s strong strike from the left-hand edge of the box forced a smart reaction save from Sergio Romero. It proved a crucial stop.
Palacio fluffs his lines
With the likes of Messi, Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria and Higuain all vying for a spot in Argentina’s attack, it is little surprise that Rodrigo Palacio’s involvement at the World Cup has been limited. And yet it was the Inter man who had the chance to become the hero for the South Americans. The ball fell kindly in the area, but – perhaps put off by the imposing frame of Neuer – Palacio skewed his attempted chip wide of the post.
Substitutes Schurrle and Gotze combine for Germany winner
Neither man was chosen by Joachim Low to start the final – Schurrle was required to replace Christoph Kramer in the first half after the Borussia Monchengladbach man took a heavy blow from Ezequiel Garay, while Gotze replaced record World Cup goalscorer Miroslav Klose towards the end of normal time – but that duo proved decisive for Germany. Schurrle’s determined run down the left wing and subsequent cross was controlled by Gotze on the left edge of the six-yard box and the Bayern Munich man rifled home a superb volley into the far corner to spark delirium among the German supporters, and hand Germany a fourth World Cup crown.