There was magic in the decisive moment of the World Cup final, but it didn't belong to Lionel Messi. It was instead conjured by a pair of Germany substitutes to ensure that the world's most complete team lifted the world's most coveted trophy.
Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in extra time to win the 2014 World Cup at Estadio do Maracana in Rio De Janeiro on Sunday. The match remained scoreless into the second period of extra time when substitute Mario Gotze scored a superb goal in the 113th minute after receiving a cross from teammate Andre Schurrle.
"It was the best moment of my life I have to tell," Schurrle told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap. "I've never felt like this. I didn't know where I am when Mario scored because I knew we had some time left and we need to defend. And then when the referee blow the whistle, it just overcome me. I had to cry. I couldn't stop it. It was crazy. I just want to feel this moment and to celebrate."
This is the fourth World Cup triumph for Germany. It last won the World Cup in 1990, defeating Argentina in another cagey final. By winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Germany became the first European side to win the tournament when it was held in South America.
"It's incredible. The team did it beautifully," Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said after the win, via The Associated Press. "At some point we'll stop celebrating but we'll still wake up with a smile."
Hailed as "Messi vs. the Machine" by ESPN commentator Jon Champion, the final lived up to its advanced billing, even if goals were hard to come by. Germany, coming off a 7-1 dismantling of Brazil in the semifinals, dominated possession in the early going but nearly gifted a score to Argentina in the 21st minute. Argentina forward Gonzalo Higuain found himself with a clear run on goal after Germany's Toni Kroos gave the ball away. With no defender between him and the Germany goal, Higuain failed to even put his shot on frame.
While Germany saw more of the ball Argentina created perhaps the more dangerous scoring opportunities. Messi, who would be awarded the Golden Ball as the best player at the World Cup, rolled a chance just wide of Neuer's net early in the second half. The four-time Ballon d'or winner playing not just against Germany but also the legend of Diego Maradona completed 72% of his passes and managed four shots during the final.
In first period of extra time, it was Higuain's replacement, Rodrigo Palacio, who missed what may have been Argentina's last best chance to score against Germany. Palacio received a cross in the Germany penalty area from Marcos Rojo in the 97th minute. Palacio controlled the pass with his chest and then tried to lob the ball past Neuer. His touch betrayed him in the crucial moment and the shot went wide of goal.
Gotze would score his unforgettable winner on a similar play in the second period of extra time. He controlled Schurrle's cross with his chest and then struck the ball cleanly past Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero. That the goal was created by two substitutes provided the final reminder of the depth and talent of Germany.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Gotze said after the win, as translated by ESPN. "I don't know how to describe it. You just shoot that goal and you don't really know what's happening. Then at the very end of the match, it's undescribable, having a party with the team, with the whole country. A dream became reality. It is for us, really a dream come true. And I'm more than happy and very proud of the team and of what happened here in Brazil."