With the renowned Christ the Redeemer statue and Rio sunset in the background, there was a picturesque feel to the Brazilian capital. Despite the tranquil atmosphere it seemed to impose, Rio de Janeiro was far from quiet. With thousands of attendees, Estadio do Marcana brimmed with life as it awaited the battle between two of the world’s best national football teams. On the particular day, the focus was not on Rio’s famous Christ the Redeemer but on the stadium that was flooded with a sea of white and sky blue.
As the grueling semis came to an end, two teams emerged victorious: Germany, known as the world’s best team, and Argentina, home to the world’s best player.
Although Joachim Low, Germany’s manager, was predicted to keep his line-ups, he opted otherwise. Going for an unconventional, for his country’s standards, 4-2-4, he went with M. Neuer for goal keeper; B. Howedes for left back; M. Hummels (despite his injury) and J. Boateng for center backs; P. Lahm for right back; B. Schweinsteiger and T. Kroos for center midfielders; and M. Ozil, T. Muller, M. Klose, and surprise C. Kramer for forwards.
On the other hand, Argentina’s manager, Alejandro Sabella’s formation was a bit more familiar. Sabella went with a variation of the 4-4-2 formation, allowing his attacking midfielder to roam more freely upfield, not needing to track back to defend as often. His backline started with S. Romero as goal keeper, Zabaleta as right back; Demichelis and E. Garay as center backs; M. Rojo as left back; J. Mascherano as a defensive midfielder; L. Biglia and E. Perez as center midfielders; L. Messi as an attacking midfielder; and G. Higuain and E. Lavezzi as forwards.
As both sides readied themselves in the Estadio do Marcana, tension was high. All eyes were, surprisingly, not on Messi (Argentina) and Muller (Germany) but on Mascherano (Argentina) and Schweinsteiger and Kroos (Germany). It appeared to be the battle of the midfield maestros. The kick-off started with the blow of the whistle and the first half was played with much intensity.
On the fifth minute of the game, the Argentines asserted their dominance. The La Albiceleste made use of a quick counter attack to feed Gonzalo Higuain the ball; however, the Napoli striker was unlucky to shoot wide. Making dazzling runs on opposite sides of the pitch, Germany’s talisman, Muller, and Argentina’s skipper, Messi, looked to impress with their array of skills. Despite the display, neither was able to score. Lavezzi of Argentina also looked to trouble Germany’s Howedes with his surging runs upfield. As soon as the clock hit the 12-minute mark, the Germans were again awarded with a corner, but it led to a hustled clearance by the Argentine defense.
Probably Argentina’s greatest chance in the first half, Kroos of Germany made a bad pass, allowing Higuain a one-on-one with the German keeper. Despite the free opportunity, again, the Argentine forward failed to convert, shooting too low and too wide. To add to the forward’s misfortune, Higuain mistimed his run to score an off-side goal from a precise early cross.
Looking strong in the first half, Argentina was again awarded with more good luck as Kramer was stretchered out of the game because of an unfortunate knock to the head. Schurrle replaced the midfielder. As the Germans were given the chance to counter-attack from a corner, the substitute fired from out of the box, forcing the Argentine keeper to make a spectacular diving save.
However, Messi looked to score as he made his trademark run through the heart of the German defense. Leaving the renowned back four of Germany in shambles, the 4-time Ballon ‘d Or winner ran past the German keeper to an open goal. Unfortunately, he lost his balance and the ball was cleared. The first half action ended with two minutes of added time and Howedes’s ricocheted header transpose off the goal post.
To further strengthen his attacking force, Sabella brought in Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero for Lavezzi. The substitute quickly made an impact as La Albiceleste’s captain was given a clear shot. Messi hit wide. Argentina looked fierce as its forwards seemingly caught German’s famous defense off-guard time and time again.
Just as soon as Argentina appeared to take the lead, another collision took place between Neuer and Higuain. Much to the dismay of Sabella and his team, a free kick was awarded in favor of Germany. The free kick seemed to be a turning point for the Germans, as Schurrle made an energetic run down the right but failed to convert. Followed by two consecutive yellow cards for Argentina’s Mascherano and Aguero, luck seemed to be tipped in Germany’s favor.
Unfortunately, both sides failed take the lead. Argentina brought in Palacio for the unlucky Higuain who seemed to lose his renowned clinical finishing. Germany, on the other hand, brought in youngster Gotze for the German legend Klose—the latter left to a standing ovation.
As extra time began, Germany appeared to be the more formidable force as Schurrle curled a shot but was spectacularly denied by Romero, Argentina’s keeper. However, as the clock hit the 97th minute, Argentina was given its best chance in all of the second half. Palacio received a cross from Rojo but sadly placed it a tad bit too high over the bar. Extra time seemed to be taking its toll as Messi was seen to be vomiting on the pitch as Schweinsteiger bled underneath his right eye.
Just as fans seemed to believe that a penalty shoot-out awaited, Mario Gotze, the super-sub, expertly placed a cross from his compatriot Schurrle into the net. The magnificent strike awarded the Germans with their coveted 4th World Cup. What a splendid game indeed.
Although both sides exchanged equally impressive chances, Germany had luck and timing in its favor as seen in Gotze’s historical goal. A match that befits its title, the World Cup finals in Rio de Janeiro was truly one to remember.
Like any major football event, the World Cup drew out legends in the likes of Mario Gotze, for scoring; Miroslav Klose, with his spectacular 16 goals; Lionel Messi, with his Golden Ball award; and Manuel Neuer, with his Golden Glove award. It is only in the biggest stage where legends are truly formed. In this nerve-racking match, fans and players alike could attest to the grandeur of the beautiful game—football.