Argentina beaten finalists at the Maracana
- 13 July 2014 22:39
- Posted by @markbooth_mcfc
Argentina’s World Cup dream came to an end in the cruellest of circumstances as they lost the final to Germany 1-0 after extra-time at the Maracanã.
Sergio Aguero, Martin Demichelis and Pablo Zabaleta’s side had the majority of the best chances over the course of the night but Mario Götze came up with the winning goal after 113 minutes to win the night.
World Cup finals usually deliver more in tension that than they do in the entertainment stakes and that was the case again here as the teams played out a largely flat goalless draw over 90 minutes before Germany’s extra-time sucker punch.
It was the first goal Argentina have conceded with Demichelis and Zabaleta on the field in the tournament.
City’s defensive duo completed all 120 minutes, while Kun was introduced from the substitute’s bench at half-time.
Alejandro Sabella named an unchanged line-up from the XI which started their semi-final against the Netherlands, meaning Aguero initially had to be content with a place on the bench as he continued his comeback from a thigh strain.
Demichelis and Zabaleta both started for La Albiceleste, making up 50% of one of the tournament’s stingiest defences.
Joachim Löw responded in kind, selecting an identical side to the one that romped home to that incredible 7-1 victory over Brazil in the tournament’s other last four encounter.
It was a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals and the teams shared a win each going into 2014’s edition of football’s most prestigious occasion.
Gonzalo Higuain nearly gave his side a dream start after three minutes when he broke through on the right corner of the penalty area but his strike just whistled past the far post.
As is so often the case in these showpiece events, both sides spent the opening exchanges sizing one another up but an individual error by Toni Kroos presented Higuain with a gilt-edged chance to put La Albiceleste ahead after 20 minutes.
"The Bayern Munich midfielder’s attempted header back to Neuer was undercooked, putting the Argentina no.9 through on goal but he scuffed his volley wide of the target when he looked odds-on to score."
...Argentina v Germany: Match report...
Argentina looked content to soak up pressure and rely on moments of quality from their star-studded frontline and it was a plan that appeared to bear fruit on the half-hour mark.
Higuain thought it was third time lucky from his point of view, when he converted Lavezzi’s cross from close range but his celebrations were cut short when the linesman raised his flag for offside.
Benedikt Höwedes was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch three minutes later but referee Nicola Rizzoli demonstrated leniency to only brandish a yellow card for the German defender’s ugly high tackle on Zabaleta.
Unlike in their semi-final, Germany weren’t having it all their own way but they came close to taking the lead against the run of play with ten minutes of the first period to play.
Andre Schurrle brought the very best out of Sergio Romero in the Argentine goal with a header that look destined for the back of the net until the goalkeeper’s fingertip-ed intervention.
Seconds before the break, Germany came even closer, hitting the woodwork through Howedes, who crashed a towering header against the post before Romero leapt gratefully onto the loose ball on his goal line.
A half-time score of 0-0 was about right, given the balance of play in the first 45 and both City representatives on the pitch could reflect on impressively solid halves.
In fact, no player on the pitch made more than Zabaleta’s five tackles over the course of the first period.
It was easy to see why five of the last seven World Cup finals have been goalless at the halfway stage but Aguero was introduced in place of Lavezzi at the restart, helping Argentina to begin the second half on the front foot.
Much had been made of Lionel Messi’s quest to join the pantheon of all-time greats in the build-up to kick-off and a winning goal in a World Cup final would surely cement his legend.
He nearly had it two minutes into the second period when he broke through but his left-footed effort was the wrong side of the far post.
Argentina were denied what looked like a clear penalty shortly after but, much to Kun’s bemusement, it was actually Higuain who was penalised when Neuer sprinted out of his goal and clotheslined the Napoli striker just inside the area.
After that brief flicker of life, the match descended back into its natural cagey state, with chances at a premium for both sides and the game being played almost exclusively in the middle third of the pitch.
One trademark Messi curler which arrowed narrowly wide aside, extra-time felt like an inevitability long before the referee sounded the full-time whistle.
Second-half substitute Rodrigo Palacio lifted the ball over the onrushing Neuer and past the tiring Mats Hummels in the first half of extra-time but the Inter striker just took the ball too wide to bring his finish on target.
There were no further clear cut chances until Götze’s brilliant 113th minute volley from an acute angle which clinched Germany’s fourth World Cup.