What. A. Final.
The World Cup is over, and Germany are your world champions after a fittingly amazing end to the best World Cup in recent memory. Argentina and Germany were as well-matched a pair as we could have hoped.
The first half was excellent, with both sides creating several chances. Gonzalo Higuain had a pair of glorious goalscoring opportunities go wasting, one with a mis-hit finish and another that he netted, but was flagged off for offside. It was a tough day for Pipita, but he wasn't the only one to have finishing issues. Even Miroslav Klose, who against Brazil became the World Cup career goalscoring leader, scuffed a shot straight in to the arms of Sergio Romero on one of Germany's best chances.
For all the wonders of the first half, though, it might be best remembered for a pair of questionably called incidents by the referee. The first was when Christoph Kramer, starting the match for Germany after Sami Khedira was felled by a calf injury in warmups, was leveled off the ball by a shoulder charge to the jaw from Ezequiel Garay in the box. There was no way Garay hit Kramer accidentally, not with a shoulder-drop-and-lean like we saw, and he should have been sent off straight away, but the referee didn't even whistle a foul. Kramer was clearly concussed as he was sitting on the ground, but wasn't actually removed from the match for ten more minutes after falling over multiple times thanks to there being no FIFA concussion protocols of any kind.
The other incident was several minutes later, when Benedikt Howedes cleared out Pablo Zabaletta with a tackle that included a boot in to the side of the wing back's knee, but somehow the ref only gave Howedes a yellow card. Both sides should have been down to ten men by then (and both lacking a starting defender), but thanks to some poor decisions from the ref things were still even.
The second half started with Ezequiel Lavezzi getting subbed out (Pocho nooooo) in favor of Kun Aguero, with Alejandro Sabella looking to have Argentina work a little bit more centrally than they had so far. The first chance of the half saw Lionel Messi blaze just wide, pushing a left-footed shot wide of the post thanks to a little bit of bend on the ball. It didn't get much better for Argentina, with Higuain getting whistled for a foul in the box, apparently for the side of his head daring to make contact with the flying knee of Manuel Neuer as the keeper came out to punch the ball that Higuain was looking to run on to.
For awhile, the match evened out in to both sides probing at each other, but Germany slowly started to create more chances again, with Toni Kroos sending the best of them wide with ten minutes to go. Mesut Ozil fluffed some chances of his own, and Andre Schurrle scuffed a handful of opportunities as well.
As the end of regular time approached, Joachim Low made his second sub and pulled out Miroslav Klose, likely closing the curtain the international career of one of the finest goalscorers we've seen in international football. Klose left to rapturous applause from the entire Maracana, departing with 16 World Cup goals to his name, and the career goalscoring record for the tournament. He was replaced by Mario Gotze, a youngster that many German fans hope can have a similar impact throughout his career.
Then came extra time, and some wonderfully bizarre moments along with it. Manuel Neuer, sweeper keeper extraordinaire, was charging all over the German half of the pitch trying to help ignite a spark for his side, even going so far as to take a throw-in to try and use his strong arm to create a chance in a dangerous area. Argentina's Sergio Romero was not to be out-done, however, showing up with some impressive saves of his own when the Germans were on the charge.
Inter's Rodrigo Palacio, who had entered the match late in the first half for Higuain, had a glorious chance for Argentina, but his chipped finish that got over Neuer couldn't find the frame of goal. That was the last great chance for Argentina, and Mario Gotze took his with ten minutes left in extra time, making a magnificent finish to beat Romero and sink Argentina.
Many were quick to blame Lionel Messi for Argentina's failure, but in a tournament where he scored four times and created just about everything good Argentina did, it's hard to pin the fault on him. He was Argentina's best player by far both today and for the last month, but he can't do it all himself. Kun Aguero, Angel Di Maria, and (sadly) neither of Ezeuqiel Lavezzi or Gonzalo Higuain were good enough to get Argentina over the hump. Not even Diego Maradona could have saved Argentina with that team performance today.
Still, though, Argentina should be proud. They came just one step shy of lifting the World Cup trophy, and gave the Germans their fiercest test of the tournament. This was a match that easily could have gone either way, and ended with Messi being crowned as one of the best ever (even though he already is, even without a World Cup win). Instead, Germany is the first European nation to win a World Cup hosted in the Americas.
What. A. Final.