The Maracaná in Rio de Janeiro was host to a fitting end for the 2014 World Cup on Sunday, as Germany continued their superb run and defeated Argentina to win their 4th World Cup, and the first ever as a united country. Having last won the World Cup in 1990, the German team finally overcame a string of second and third place finishes. A single goal from Mario Götze put Germany past Argentina in the third meeting between the two countries in a World Cup final.
While Germany were usually the favorites to win the final, Argentina played some of their best football of the entire tournament. The Argentine defense was solid and often left no German players unmarked, stopping German attacks that thrashed Brazil. The speed of Pablo Zabaleta, Javier Mascherano, and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the counterattack also frequently left the German team doubling back to defend their own area. In fact it was a lightning counterattack gave Argentina their best chance of the first half. Lavezzi ran the ball down the right side and sent a low sweeping ball to the center where Gonzalo Higuain was making his way toward goal. Higuain guided the ball into the net with a brief touch of the side of his foot, but the goal was correctly disallowed as Higuain was offside. While this was the best opportunity Argentina had in the match, it was certainly not the only one. Messi and Higuain up front showed the ability that had eluded them for much of the tournament, particularly in the second half, and made Manuel Neuer work hard to keep Germany from going down in regular time.
With Germany and Argentina roughly equal throughout regular time, it was not surprising to see the whistle blow for the first 90 minutes with the score still 0-0. Extra time only increased the tempo from both Germany and Argentina, and both teams had good chances. However, it was Germany that would ultimately find the net to win the match. Schurrle craftily wove around three Argentine defenders in a run down the left side, and delivered the ball into the penalty area. Götze collected the ball well, and expertly volleyed the ball from a narrow angle into the far netting to give Germany the win and cement the team in footballing history.
The third place playoff match between the Netherlands and Brazil was, unfortunately for Brazil, not as evenly matched as the final. While Thiago Silva returned to the lineup from his suspension, the Brazilian team still looked sluggish and demoralized after their historic defeat to Germany. Brazil may have had hoped going into the match, but as with Germany those hopes were quickly dashed by the quick pace of the Dutch team. Arjen Robben had an exquisite goalscoring opportunity early on as a Van Persie cross found Robben shaking off his mark at the edge of the penalty area. However, Robben was pulled to the ground by Thiago Silva, who received only a lenient yellow card for deliberately stopping a clear opportunity. Robin Van Persie took the penalty kick, and easily put the Dutch up 1-0 in only the 3rd minute.
The scoreline worsened for Brazil not fifteen minutes later. A sailing cross into the area should have been an easy clearance for the Brazilian defense, but a mistake by David Luiz gave the ball straight to Daley Blind. Blind acted fast, and with one touch controlled the ball and another shot it in a high arc into the roof of the net. That goal put the Dutch up 2-0 with only 17 minutes gone, and raised the question of whether this would be yet another horrid defeat for the Brazilians.
After those two goals, however, the Dutch struggled to extend their lead any further. Brazil fought hard in the second half to get at least one goal in the match as they had with Germany, but to no avail. Oscar had two excellent shots on goal. The first was a powerful long range drive that Cillessen stayed in a good position to stop and collect. The second was a dangerous set piece that Luis Gustavo sent into the area but somehow did not find another Brazilian player and went harmlessly out of bounds.
Brazil’s pace picked up by the end of the second half, but they were stymied by the Dutch defense nearly every time and failed to score throughout the game. The Netherlands, meanwhile, added one more goal to their run in stoppage time of the match. Daryl Janmaat delivered a low cross into the area from the right and found Georgiano Wijnaldum unmarked. Wijnaldum flicked the ball in by the far post out of range of Julio Cesar to put the Netherlands up 3-0 in the final tally.
The world now bid farewell to the World Cup for another four years. This tournament will no doubt be one of the most exciting for a while. The 2014 World Cup in total had 171 goals, sharing the spotlight with the 1998 World Cup for most goals in a single tournament. Miroslav Klose broke the record for most total World Cup goals, and 22 year old Colombian James Rodriguez took home the Golden Boot with 6 goals. This World Cup was full of near triumphs for the underdogs, and several teams reaching the farthest they ever have. Bosnia’s debut, while ending after the group stage, was not without a win. Costa Rica and Greece both reached past the group stage for the first time, with Costa Rica also moving to the semifinals and holding the Dutch to a penalty shootout. Algeria advanced past the group stage for the first time as well, and nearly held off Germany in the round of 16, taking the match to extra time. Lastly, Colombia made their debut in the quarterfinals.