Germany have won the football World Cup for a fourth time after substitute Mario Goetze volleyed in a brilliant goal seven minutes from the end of extra time to secure a 1-0 victory over Argentina at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
The game had seemed destined for penalties until fellow substitute Andre Schuerrle escaped down the left and sent in a cross that Goetze controlled on his chest before slamming home.
”We’re going to celebrate for at least five weeks now,” said Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
”At some point we’ll stop celebrating, but we’ll always keep waking up with a smile.
”We did it and it’s unbelievable. In the preparation we had some setbacks. We have to think of the guys not here. They are world champions now too,” he added.
Neuer, who was named goalkeeper of the tournament following the extra-time victory, paid tribute to the squad and coaching staff, as well as the players who were unable to travel to Brazil due to injury.
”It’s unbelievable,” he told German television.
”All of Germany is world champions now.
”All those who didn’t play brought such togetherness into the team, that’s why we won the World Cup.”
Neuer’s role in Germany’s triumph extended far beyond his superb shot-stopping abilities as his perfectly timed dashes out of the area to cut off opposition breaks instilled confidence in his back four and helped launch fast counter-attacks.
Several times he put himself on collision course with opposition strikers but he never backed out of a challenge.
”It’s not about me and whether or not I risk my neck for the team,” he added.
”The team did a super job, everything was great, the team behind the team.
Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella said his team’s 1-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup final on Sunday was a moment of sadness but he was also proud of their performance.
Sabella, speaking to television cameras on the sideline of the pitch, said he felt ”the sadness of not being able to win the tournament, but pride for a team that played a great game.”
”I congratulate the players, who are the pride of a country because of the effort they made and the tournament they had,” he added.
Midfielder Javier Mascherano said: ”The pain is immense. We wanted to take the cup back to Argentina once again.
”We are gutted,” he added.
”We gave what we could and we are sorry for the people who came and for the people in Argentina.
”The pain will be for life because this was our opportunity,” Mascherano said.
”We have to lift our heads and endure the pain.”
In the match, Germany dominated possession, but Argentina were always dangerous on the break and had the best of the few chances.
The clearest of them came after 20 minutes when Tony Kroos’s misdirected header sent Gonzalo Higuain clear, only for the striker to drag his shot badly wide with the goal at his mercy.
Argentina’s Lionel Messi struggled to impose himself on the game and though he shot just wide right at the start of the second half, he looked short of fitness and drifted out of the action.
As both teams tired, the game went into extra time and Argentina substitute Rodrigo Palacio had a great chance, but touched the ball wide.
Another penalty shootout had looked certain until Goetze, who began the tournament as first choice for Germany, had the final word with a memorable goal.
Having won the title in 1954, 1974 and 1990 – as West Germany – this triumph made them the first European team to lift the trophy in the Americas.
STUNNED TO SILENCE
German’s win broke the heart of a nation, leaving millions of disconsolate Argentines to contemplate a defeat that deprived the South American country of its first World Cup win in almost three decades.
In downtown Buenos Aires’ San Martin park, a boisterous crowd was stunned into silence by a Mario Goetze volley in extra-time which gave Germany a 1-0 win in the World Cup final in Rio de Janeiro.
Distraught fans held their heads in their hands as the final minutes ticked down.
At the final whistle, television pictures showed supporters across the city defiantly waving flags and applauding their team, with chants of ”Argentina, Argentina,” ringing out.
”It’s another slap in the face. There is no more joy, but we came out second and were not shamed in Brazil,” said 40-year-old Eduardo Manfredi.
The hopes of 40-million people had been heaped on the shoulders of the national side – in particular Lionel Messi, one of the world’s greatest players, and in-form goal keeper Sergio Romero.
Hours before the game started, fans in the soccer-obsessed capital streamed along the city’s boulevards blowing vuvuzela horns and banging drums, while some even dressed up their pampered pooches in soccer strips tailor made for dogs.
Argentina has won the World Cup twice, most recently in 1986 when they defeated West Germany in the final.