Well folks, this is our last World Cup Calendar match to review. I only wish I were able to finish this series on a high. The 2014 World Cup was an excellent tournament of football, yet the final in the Maracana was just disappointing all round. There were offsides aplenty, some ghastly striking from Gonzalo Higuain and chances squanders all round. It was not a final befitting of the wonderful World Cup it closed, and, not to sound big headed at all, but it was not a match worthy of this not terrible series I have been writing. But hey, it is a World Cup final, and Mario Gotze did score a pretty spectacular goal, so let’s get stuck in!
Gonzalo Higuain benefitted from the inexperience of Christoph Kramer early on. Kramer headed a loose ball back in the direction of his goalkeeper, evidently not aware that Higuain was lurking behind the Germany defence. The header was weak and Higuain latched on to it, carrying the ball to the edge of the box and taking fire. It was a lacklustre effort which rolled meekly out for a goal kick. It was a dismal effort by one of the world’s best forwards.
Philipp Lahm created a good chance for Germany soon after. He ran down the right flank, cutting in and stabbing the ball with the outside of his boot. The ball usurped the defence and allowed Thomas Muller the opportunity to take a swing for the ball. The Bayern Munich forward threw himself at the ball in an attempt to turn it in. He missed, though the pass from Lahm forced Argentinean goalkeeper Sergio Romero into pushing it wide. It mattered little, though, as the play stopped. The linesman had raised his flag, rendering Muller’s effort irrelevant.
Higuain’s early shocker was but a distant memory as the Napoli hitman slotted the ball into the net. He ran off widely in celebration, going crazy at the idea of netting in the World Cup Final. The ball had been played wide right to Ezequiel Lavezzi. The winger picked out Higuain in the box between two defenders, the big striker tapping it in his left foot. Argentina were furious at the officials, but replays proved that it was a correct decision.
Germany forced Romero into a brilliant save nearing half time. Benedikt Howdes darted down the wing, cutting into the box from the left and dragging the ball back to substitute Andre Schurrle, on for the injured Christoph Kramer. Schurrle hit a shot first time towards the top left corner, forcing Romero into a quick reaction save. The ‘keeper was angered at the linesman’s decision not to flag Mesut Ozil offside. Ozil had thrown himself at the ball as Romero made his save.
Just prior to half time, both sides created strong chances. Lionel Messi broke into the penalty box and was baring down on goal, which so often results in a goal. Mats Hummels made a tremendous slide tackle to disposes the Barcelona forward and see the defence sweep the ball to safety. Bastian Schweinsteiger had a chance of his own shortly after. Mesut Ozil slid a pass along to Bastian some 25 yards from goal. The strike was on target, though it resulted in a comfortable save for Romero.
Higuain’s day went from bad to worse after a collision with Manuel Neuer. He chased down a long ball from Pablo Zabaleta, rushing into space on the edge of the box. The ball took a heavy bounce, Higuain opted to use his head to control the ball. This attempt was fruitless, however, as Manuel Neuer darted to the ball, punching the ball wide and kneeing the striker in the face. It was heavy hit to the head for Higuain, but a legal one… just.
Chances were coming thick and fast in the second half, but neither side could capitalise. Messi, Kroos, Klose and Schurrle all managed to blow chances. Some went wide, some went high, some barely trickled into the hands of the opposite goalkeeper. With just two minutes to play, Germany coach Joachim Low made a substitution which proved to win Germany the World Cup. He took off the World Cup’s all time leading goalscorer for young Bayern Munich attacking midfielder Mario Gotze.
The game went to extra time and how Germany did not take the lead was astounding. Andre Schurrle cut past Martin Demichelis. He stumbled, but the ball rolled down to Mario Gotze. Gotze recovered the ball on the bye-line, flicking it back to Schurrle, who curled his shot first time towards goal. Sergio Romero batted the ball away, back into the box. A game of pingpong ensued, with the ball finally getting cleared to safety.
Rodrigo Palacio had a chance to give Argentina the lead towards the end of the first period of extra time. He took a ball down on his chest, Jerome Boateng completely misjudged the flight of the cross. Palacio’s touch was a little heavy, and Neuer was quick off his line to close down the angle. He took the bizarre decision to flick the ball over the ‘keeper, rather than slotting under him. The flick was too hard and the ball bounced out for a goal kick.
Sergio Aguero had come off the bench just after half time, though he had very little influence during the course of the second half. In fact, his only real contribution was injuring Bastian Schweinsteiger. Both players contested for a high ball in the centre of the field with the Argentinean striker catching Schweinsteiger with a fist to the face. This left the German midfielder with a nasty cut under his eye. Low wanted to take the player off, but Schweinsteiger was adamant that he was able to continue.
With under ten minutes to go, Die Mannschaft scored the game’s only goal. Andre Schurrle dribbled down the wing, chipping a cross into the box from the left flank. This cross was met by Mario Gotze. Gotze found himself in an abundance of space. He took the ball on his chest and hit the ball on the volley. The shot soared past Sergio Romero and into the back of the net. The crowd went wild. Despite a great many Brazilians in the crowd, still hurting over their 7-1 defeat in the Semi Finals, they would rather see the Germans beat their old enemies from Argentina.
Argentina created a couple of chance, Lionel Messi heading over the bar, soon after skying a free kick, but eventually, the final whistle blew. The Germans had won. Years of bowing out in the Semi Finals were just a distant memory. They had been a force of nature in Brazil, sourcing a weakness in their opposition and exploiting it to devastating effect. Argentina posed a tricky threat, and on another day, Gonzalo Higuain would have put his side ahead many times over. But that is football, sometimes players have bad days, regardless of the occasion. I said at the beginning that this was a disappointing final. This was perhaps an overreaction. The game suffered in comparison to the quality of the tournament as a whole that summer. It did have some exciting moments, however. Mario Gotze scored a stunning goal that was truly worthy of winning the greatest tournament on earth.
Tomorrow’s episode: July 14th. The World Cup Calendar; Statistical Analysis. 2017.