World Cup: Super Mario puts Germany top of world

Frank Dalleres
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AET, 0-0 after 90 minutes

SUBSTITUTE Mario Gotze climbed off the bench to score a breathtaking extra-time winner as Germany beat Argentina to win their fourth World Cup last night at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.

Gotze settled a gripping final in the 113th minute with a supremely composed chest-and-volley finish as Joachim Low's men became the first European nation to lift the trophy in the Americas.

Superstar Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain had earlier wasted clear chances to win Argentina's third World Cup in the iconic stadium of their neighbours and bitter rivals.

Instead it was Germany, arguably the most impressive team over the four weeks, celebrating at the end of a riveting tournament that equalled the record number of goals - 171 - for a 32-team World Cup.

Defender Mats Hummels said: "I am still completely trapped in another world, physically too exhausted to be able to rejoice euphorically. But that will come in the coming days."

Germany and Chelsea forward Andre Schurrle said he was unable to prevent himself crying. "This is the best moment of my life. I had to cry because I was so overcome. I couldn't stop it. It was always a dream to become a world champion."

Captain Philip Lahm said: "Whether we have the best individual players or whatever does not matter - you have to have the best team.

"We stepped up time and again in the tournament, did not let ourselves get distracted by any disruption, went on our way. And at the end you stand there as world champions - an unbelievable feeling. The team has remained quiet and patient."

Germany's most recent World Cup triumph, at the 1990 tournament in Italy, also came after they beat Argentina 1-0 in the final, and they started firm favourites to prevail last night.

Argentina had the best chance of 90 minutes early in the first half, when Toni Kroos inadvertently fed Higuain with a wayward header but the Napoli striker drilled wide with just Manuel Neuer to beat.

Germany enjoyed greater control, probing repeatedly, yet it was from a corner that they almost scored just before half-time, left-back Benedikt Howedes crashing a thunderous header against a post.

Messi looked sparkier than in previous outings in the knockout stage but Argentina's most likely match-winner dragged a routine chance wide and Higuain departed shortly after being clattered by Neuer as the goalkeeper cleared on the edge of his box.

A frantic start to extra-time saw Schurrle thump a near-post shot at Sergio Romero, while at the other end fellow substitute Rodrigo Palacio lobbed Neuer but missed the goal.

But Germany, perhaps fired by a sense of injustice after Sergio Aguero's flailing arm had left the tireless Bastian Schweinsteiger with a bloody face, finally made the breakthrough and put Argentina behind for the first time in the tournament.

Schurrle charged down the left and crossed for Gotze, who cushioned the ball with his chest and, before it bounced, guided it past Romero with his outstretched left boot to become the first substitute to score the winning goal in a World Cup final.


Jogo bonito
■ Football does just look better in Brazil. Unless, that is, you're Brazilian, and you've just been beaten 7-1.

Power resides at No10
■ Strikers are so passe; this was the World Cup of the deep-lying forward, from James Rodriguez, to Neymar (preinjury), Lionel Messi, (pre-last 16), Luis Suarez and Alexis Sanchez.

World chomp
■ Ah, Suarez. The Uruguayan seems incorrigible after all and, if anything, more likely to go rogue the bigger the occasion.

Red and buried
■ Spain's era of global dominance appears to be well and truly over, and their experiment with playing an actual striker an unmitigated failure.

America decides to join in
■ Soccer may still have a way to go in the States, but when Madeleine Albright is tweeting selfies of her with a football, something has definitely changed.

Murphy wins the golden mic
■ Danny Murphy is nourishing manna from co-commentary heaven next to the excitable E-number overload of Clarke Carlisle and Mark Lawrenson's freezersection buffet of misery.

Pick a second team
■ England don't need to do well for us to enjoy the tournament - probably just as well, as there's more chance of seeing three actual lions lifting a trophy.

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