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Substitute Goetze steals spotlight with a strike fit for the Rio grand

First they subdued their hosts, last night they took over the world.

Lionel Messi was frustrated at the Maracana. Picture: Reuters
Lionel Messi was frustrated at the Maracana. Picture: Reuters

Germany won the World Cup final after beating Argentina in extra time, with substitute Mario Goetze striking decisively after 113 minutes.

Lionel Messi had been cast initially as the leading man on football's biggest stage. Instead he stood out for a miss during second half of normal time, the Argentine captain - one of the greatest players in the world - dragging a shot wide of a post after being released in behind the German defence.

He was not alone in falling under scrutiny, of course. Normal time was made extraordinary by the number of missed opportunities - with Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain perhaps the most culpable.

The Napoli striker was sent clean through on goal as a consequence of an errant header from Toni Kroos, but he also dragged his effort wide of Manuel Neuer's goal.

Benedikt Howedes would rattle woodwork at the end of the first half, while his German team-mates were similarly inaccurate with much of their passing throughout the first half. With neither side able to find the net, the evening's entertainment drew on and went to extra-time. But no further.

The atmosphere crackled during a pre-match concert which involved Colombian pop star Shakira and Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen. The sense of anticipation was barely contained inside the Maracana; a giant Brazil flag which stretched across the pitch was taken away before kick off and the stadium was transformed immediately into an arena better suited to Buenos Aires.

The Argentines inside the famous stadium were in the mood to mock the hosts for their humiliating semi-final defeat by Germany and the volume increased further after the first whistle was blown.

The ball flew from one end to the other in an entertaining opening quarter. Higuain whistled one low shot wide, then Messi burst into the penalty box but his pass towards Enzo Perez was cut out by Bastian Schweinsteiger. Miroslav Klose just failed to reach a cross from Philipp Lahm, too.

It was an exciting opening 15 minutes played out amid a thundering cacophony of noise. There was a temporary reprieve when Christoph Kramer - a late replacement for Sami Khedira after the German pulled up during the warm up - was caught by Ezequiel Garay and required treatment.

Higuain was perhaps still trying to get back up to speed when he missed that chance a moment later. Kroos headed the ball over his own back four and towards Higuain, who watched the ball drop perfectly on to his right foot. Yet despite being two yards ahead of the nearest defender, the Argentine dragged his shot wide.

Alejandro Sabella, the Argentina head coach, was stunned. There many more in the stands who wore similar looks of disbelief. Substitute Sergio Aguero was so embarrassed for his team-mate that he pulled his training top over his head as he sat in the dugout.

Higuain thought he had made amends when he tucked away Ezequiel Lavezzi's cross but the striker was ruled offside. He had set off in behind the German defence a moment too early.

Kramer, who was still feeling the effects of the collision with Garay, hobbled off and was replaced by Andre Schuerrle, who then tested goalkeeper Sergio Romero.

The first half was over. The drama was not. Less than 90 seconds after the restart, Messi found a way through the Germany defence but he dragged his shot a foot wide. Neuer then raced from his line to punch a long ball by Pablo Zabaleta, taking out Higuain in the process.

Thomas Mueller headed tamely at Romero down the other end and Mesut Oezil spurned another chance when he failed to control a cross from Schuerrle. It was imperfect football, but it was compelling.

As extra-time drew nearer both teams started to take fewer risks. Even a moment of magic from Messi was foiled by Neuer, who came racing off his line to smother the ball after the Argentina captain skipped past four defenders.

It took extra time to separate the sides. It took the boot of Goetze to confirm Germany as the world champions. The substitute chested down Schuerrle's cross and clipped the ball past Romero.

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