RIO DE JANEIRO – Germany became World Cup champion for the fourth time on Sunday night, and the first European team in history to clinch soccer's greatest prize on South American soil.
It did so courtesy of a winner deep into extra time from substitute Mario Gotze, who displayed a brilliant piece of skill to decide a contest of outstanding quality.
Gotze took a pass from the left from Andre Schurrle in the 113th minute of action, trapped it on his chest and swivelled it past Sergio Romero and into the Argentina net. The goal proved to be enough to give Germany a 1-0 victory.
For the second World Cup final in a row scores were level after 90 minutes, but unlike when Spain beat the Netherlands four years ago this was no snoozefest.
It was tense and cagey and royally entertaining. And it was sealed by a 22-year-old who had come on as substitute for Miroslav Klose with just two minutes of regulation time remaining.
Gotze's strike was the first time Argentina had trailed in the entire tournament and sent his nation into delirium, securing its first world title since 1990.
For Argentina it was agony. Lionel Messi and his team came so close but it wasn't enough. In the end, the Germans were too strong, too clinical, and in every way the best all-round collection of players at this event.
While Gotze's goal was the only score of the evening there was action, flow, chances aplenty and a spectacle the sport could be proud of. The finishing was poor, but the quality of play was outstanding.
Argentina had the best early chance, the kind that leaves forwards holding their head if they miss them. This time the unfortunate man was Gonzalo Higuain, who was sent through by an ill-conceived backward header from Germany's Toni Kroos. But Higuain scuffed his shot completely with only Manuel Neuer to beat.
Soon after Higuain did manage to put the ball in the net, to the temporary delight of the Argentinean support, only for it to be correctly whistled back for offside.
Germany's possession game was slick and sharp but missing a little extra ingredient. Sami Khedira had been ruled out through a late injury, then his replacement Christoph Kramer went down with a sickening head clash midway through the first half, bringing Schurrle into the fray.
The Germans should have gone ahead on the stroke of halftime, with Benedikt Howedes surging forward to aim a powerful header at goal, only for his effort to crash against the post with Romero beaten.
While Messi toiled and teased in the second half it was Germany that was taking control and Toni Kroos, one of the players of the tournament, marked an uncharacteristically sloppy display with a tame shot with nine minutes of normal time to go.