Mario Goetze scored in the 113th minute to give Germany a 1-0 victory over Argentina in the championship game of the World Cup on Sunday at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.
It is the fourth title for Germany, tying Italy for second most. Host Brazil, which lost to Germany, 7-1, in the semifinals has five championships.
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Lionel Messi's header over the ball further deflates Argentina. To guard against more headers, Germany starts to insert 6-foot-6 defender Per Mertesacker, but there is no stop in action to allow him on. He finally enters in the 120th minute and for the two minutes of added time.
Messi, in a final gasp, draws a foul from Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger about 10 yards beyond the box on the right side. Schweinsteiger is shaken up again, giving Argentina time to plot strategy. Messi, the free kick maestro, boots it high over the goal for an anti-climactic ending of Germany's fourth World Cup win. It is the European nation's first championship in South America, defying the assumption that a below-the-equator team would capitalize on home-continent advantage.
There has been no shortage of blows to the face. The latest victim is Schweinsteiger, who is bleeding noticeably from a cut under his right eye. Aguero did the deed on a mid-air collision. Schweinsteiger takes a minute on the sideline to get patched up and returns.
In the 113th minute, substitute Mario Goetze is unmarked between two defenders deep in the box on a counter when Andre Schuerrle spots him from the left side and serves a pretty pass. "Super Mario" settles the ball off his chest and volleys it into the net. Goal, Germany leads, 1-0.
Germany nearly leaps in front in the opening moments of extra time. Andre Schuerrle tumbles in the box, gets back up and finds himself with the ball and an obstructed look at the goal. Argentina keeper Sergio Romero expertly saves the shot.
At the other end, Argentina captain Lionel Messi dribbles toward the goal line on the left side and, under minimal pressure, rolls a cross to where he hoped a teammate was waiting. None is there, and the sequence goes awry.
Argentina muffs its second gift opportunity of the game. Rodrigo Palacio settles a Marcos Rojo lob deep into the box, eludes two defenders and, with Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer fast approaching, tries to bloop the ball over the keeper. Yet another shot, none easier than this, veers wide.
Will anyone be able to find the net if a shootout ensues?
And will FIFA enact a proposed change for 2018 to allow a fourth substitute in overtime? Fresh legs might inject some life here.
Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain's frustrating day ends prematurely when Rodrigo Palacio is sent on for him. Higuain might still be feeling the effects of his crash into Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
A weak shooting day continues for both teams when Germany blows a chance to die for. Mesut Ozil directs a pass from the deep right to Toni Kroos at the top of the box. With no hurry to unload, he drives the ball well wide of the target.
Argentina devotes its final substitution to the midfield, Fernando Gago for Enzo Perez. Germany counters by pulling Klose, the game's oldest player at 36 who might be fading, for Mario Goetze.
Regulation time ends with each side registering only six shots. Argentina, after yielding a huge possession advantage in the first half, gets some of it back in the second. The overtime will begin with one substitution left for Germany.
The yellow cards are quickly evened at 2-2 with a pair for Argentina. Javier Mascherano, ultra-important to his team, clips German forward Miroslav Klose in pursuit of the ball near the box, and substitute Sergio Agüero gets booked in the midfield vicinity after nailing German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. Four players are now on notice to avoid a repeat blatant foul.
Germany is getting runs down the left side. Failure to capitalize is more on the Germans than anything the Argentina defense is doing.
A classic Lionel Messi scenario arises. Starting along the right side, he dribbles left toward the middle of the pitch and unleashes a shot that so often goes in for him. This one doesn't threaten the net, partly thanks to marking by Germany defender Benedikt Howedes.
Fifteen minutes to go in a scoreless tie.
It's all Argentina at the start of the second half, which is reflected by the substitution of capable scorer Sergio Aguero for the less potent Ezequiel Lavezzi. On a deep push forward, Gonzalo Higuain is again guilty of offside, though not as egregiously as the previous one.
Then Lionel Messi, in a crowd, runs down a through ball from Lucas Biglia for a possession that has goal written all over it. It's not a comfortable angle for Messi on his shot from the left side. Still, it is a surprise when the ball rolls feebly off his foot to the right of the net.
Higuain gets the worse of a collision, doubly so, at the end of the box with German keeper Manuel Neuer. The Argentine forward is assessed a foul just before he hits the turf -- and after arguing the call. Higuain shakes off his major frustration and minor pain.
Germany forward Miroslav Klose attempts to add to his career World Cup goals lead with a header that does not get enough of his head. Argentina keeper Sergio Romero makes a stress-free save.
Two yellow cards add to Germany's worries. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Benedikt Howedes are booked for obvious fouls, and both must exercise caution the rest of the way.
Lionel Messi sent a few jolts of electricity through the crowd -- without Germany getting shocked. He overhits a shot above the crossbar, then dribbles deep but to no ultimate reward.
Germany's first serious threat occurs a few minutes before halftime. A chain of effective passes leaves Miroslav Klose with a decent look from just outside the box. His mid-speed shot settles up against keeper Sergio Romero's stomach.
Germany's second comes soon after on a corner kick. Toni Kroos' feed finds the head of the charging Howedes. His try strikes the right post, and the ball returns to a scrum of players. Before any damage can be done, the assistant referee raises the offside flag.
Each team heads to the locker room with only three shots, none paying off, but the game is more wide open than the statistic would suggest. Germany has owned the ball for 70%, which suits counter-attacking Argentina fine.
Christoph Kramer, Germany's 11th-hour starter, is inadvertently struck in the face, goes down and heads to the sidelines for evaluation. Temporarily down a man, Germany remains on the offensive as he prepares to return.
The goat horns are about to grow large on midfielder Toni Kroos, who heads the ball back toward his goalkeeper, only to see it roll right to Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain. The forward has no white shirts in front of him. Keeper Manuel Neuer comes forward to squeeze the angle, but Higuain still has lots of space at which to aim.
Remarkably, he booms a shot wide left, easing Neuer's load and erasing those goat horns on a relieved Kroos.
Even with most of the ball possession, Germany comes up with one shot in the opening 30 minutes. A pair of nifty passes does loosen up the back line. Bastian Schweinsteiger's beautiful long serve to Miroslav Klose is grabbed by keeper Sergio Romero in mid-air, and a delivery by Philipp Lamm is canceled by offside.
Argentina finds the net on a Higuain shot from close in, set up by Ezequiel Lavezzi's serve. Higuain's celebration is spoiled by an offside ruling.
Higuain broke open when Kramer, still feeling the effects of the head blow, stumbled. At the next dead ball, Kramer is lifted for Andre Schuerrle.
Argentina allows Germany to play soccer's version of pitch-and-catch in the middle of the field, then swarms around the ball as it advances into scoring range.
The Argentines finally mount a counter, with Lionel Messi racing with purpose up the right side. He proceeds all the way to the goal line, but a cross into the box does not connect with a teammate.
Germany earns a free kick from a distance, then a corner kick. Both are easily defensed as the underdog gets through the first quarter of an hour without a scare.
Germany's status as prohibitive favorite shrinks slightly just before kickoff when midfielder Sami Khedira is scratched with a calf injury sustained during warmups. His replacement is Christoph Kramer.
Khedira becomes the second player in two days removed from the lineup with a pregame injury. The Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder was swapped out of the third-place match after getting hurt while loosening up.
Both Germany and Argentina are staying with the lineups that brung 'em here, at least from the semifinals. The starting 11 for each squad is unchanged from their most recent games.
Argentina would have welcomed making a switch. Angel di Maria, who sat out the semis with a strained thigh, was excluded from the Argentine lineup. Enzo Perez steps in again.
A minor injury concern for Germany proved insignificant with Mats Hummels' inclusion. The defender nicked his knee against Brazil.
Weather conditions are ideal, with the temperatures in the low 70s before kickoff and no rain in the forecast.
The 2014 World Cup in Brazil comes down to this: Soccer royalty will take center stage at noon PDT today in Rio de Janeiro when Lionel Messi and Argentina play Germany for the title.
Messi, considered the world's best player, is trying to lead Argentina to its third title. Leading his team to victory on the sport's biggest stage is all that is lacking on his résumé. The Argentines, who won their last title in 1986 over Germany, 3-2, in Mexico, have struggled on offense. It's taken back-to-back shutouts and a penalty-kick shootout for them to get to the final.
Germany, a three-time Cup winner, brings a precision style of attack that opponents have struggled to stop. The well-rounded Germans, though, are trying to become the first European team to win a World Cup in the Americas. The Germans haven't won the World Cup since 1990, when they beat Argentina, 1-0, in Italy.
Whichever team wins, history will be made. Only Brazil, with five, and Italy, with four, have won more titles than Germany. Argentina can tie Germany with a third title. At game's end, soccer royalty will have another crown.Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times