Götze scores.
Germany win the World Cup after Götze's extra-time volley
The match had finished 0-0 after 90 minutes but the Bayern Munich attacker grabbed a late goal.

Mikey Stafford reports from the Maracanã.

Germany 1-0 Argentina (aet)

A EUROPEAN CONQUEST on South American soil was always going to take its toll and Germany tonight made history with one of the hardest fought World Cup final victories in history.

When Nicola Rizzoli blew his whistle at the end of extra-time most of the German players fell to the Maracana turf and many looked like they might not be able to get up of their own steam.

Their fourth World Cup victory and first since 1990 had taken its toll. Mario Götze’s winner came in the 113th minute of a match Germany were blessed to still be in.

It was the first time in 712 minutes Argentina had been behind in this tournament and, by rights, they should have been ahead by that stage.

Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi, Rodrigo Palacio.

Argentina had three steps to heaven over the course of 120 minutes but stumbled on every one of them and when substitute Götze scored the first knockout goal of this tournament against the resilient South Americans you knew their spirit was broken.

Messi, an exhausted shadow of himself, almost apologetically wafted a 30-yard free-kick over the bar in the final minute.

Götze has been a superb player suffering a poor tournament and Martin Demichelis is an average Premier League defender who had enjoyed a wonderful World Cup — there was always a risk that both would revert to type and it happened here under an Andre Schürrle cross from the left.

The Manchester City defender lost Götze and when the Bayern Munich attacker controlled the ball on his chest he had the space from a tight angle to arrow a left foot volley across Sergio Romero into the side netting.

The 18th goal of an occasionally excellent tournament for Germany left them one short of surpassing the legendary Brazil’s total in 1970 but they won’t care a jot. A concerted national effort to have a fourth star embroidered on that iconic white jersey had its gala moment with the 7-1 semi-final destruction of Brazil.

Brazil Soccer WCup Germany Argentina Victor R. Caivano Bastian Schweinsteiger lifts the World Cup trophy. Victor R. Caivano

Argentina have been goal-shy in this tournament, the last of their eight goals coming from Higuain in the eighth minute of their quarter-final win over Belgium and the Napoli striker will be forever haunted by his first half miss here.

Gifted the ball by a weak Toni Kroos header when coming back from an offside position, Higuain was unmarked and bearing down on Neuer’s goal but capped a poor tournament with a scuffed right foot effort that dribbled wide.

Christoph Kramer was included as a late replacement for Sami Khedira after the Real Madrid midfielder cruelly suffered a calf injury during the warm-up. The Borussia Monchengladbach stand-in would himself last barely half an hour before he was replaced after a sickening collision with the shoulder of Ezequiel Garay.

The loss of a second defensive midfielder forced Joachim löw into a reshuffle, with Kroos dropping back alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger. Mesut Özil moving into his preferred central role and substitute Schürrle taking the Arsenal man’s place on the left wing.

The alterations may have aided Germany, who were up to that point being incessantly attacked by Ezequiel Lavezzi down their left flank. Schürrle, a more diligent defender than Özil, offered greater cover for Benedikt Howedes, who looked all at sea against the Paris St Germain winger.

Argentina, happy to sit deep and soak up German pressure, provided the pre-match favourites with more uncomfortable moments in the first 20 minutes than Brazil managed in 90 minutes and Howedes had to time a sliding block expertly to block a Lucas Biglia shot after Messi had sucked three of his defensive partners out of position.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2014 - Final - Germany v Argentina - Estadio do Maracana PA Wire / Press Association Images Gonzalo Higuain celebrates his 'goal' before realising it was offside. PA Wire / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

On the half hour Higuain thought he had redeemed himself by stabbing a Lavezzi cross to the net only to be correctly ruled offside.

Germany were starting to make something of their lion’s share of possession and Schürrle had the first legitimate shot on target in the 37th minute when he forced Romero to dive to his right after a good run by the increasingly threatening Thomas Müller.

Germany were finding their attacking stride now, aided at times by Argentina, with Mascherano uncharacteristically gifting the ball to Klose, which allowed Kroos a shot straight at Romero.

Germany were inches from taking the lead on the cusp of half-time. Howedes nearly forgot his defensive troubles with a header from a corner that crashed off the post.

Lavezzi was surprisingly substituted at half-time but his replacement, Sergio Aguero, injected some raw speed into the Argentina attack, which started brightly after the break.

Messi’s moment nearly came when he was sent away by a sublime Biglia through ball and, cutting in from the left, he shot across Neuer but his shot rolled inches past the post. It was not as easy a chance as Higuain’s but the Golden Ball winner is judged by higher standards than most.

The Germany keeper collided with Higuain as he swept up behind his distant back line and was inexplicably awarded a free, even if the Argentinian’s histrionics.

Even in a crowd of 80,000 you could sense his desperation to atone for his first half miss but it wasn’t to be and he was replaced by Palacio.

Klose had a weak header collected by Romero and Özil made a hash of a centre from Schürrle, but like the first half, Argentina had the better of the opening exchanges.

Germany were becoming frustrated with the lack of time and space afforded them in the Argentina half, after the field day they had with Fernandinho and Luiz Gustavo in the semi-final they seemed at their wit’s end trying to negotiate a route past Mascherano and Biglia.

The one time the ball fell to a German in the Argentina penalty area Schurrle’s touch was too heavy and Romero was able to gather.

Özil had a lucky escape with a quarter of an hour to play when he allowed a nothing ball from Biglia to bobble to Messi. The Argentina captain cut in on his left but, unlike earlier in the tournament, he couldn’t find the bend and the ball whistled past Neuer’s right post.

Messi was finding more time and space as the game opened up and very nearly sent substitute Palacio away.

You began to sense it might not be Germany’s night when captain Philipp Lahm raced down the right wing and cut a perfect pass back for Kroos on the edge of the area. Against Brazil the Bayern man couldn’t miss, scoring twice, but with time to pick his spot here he shot a foot wide of the goal.

Brazil Soccer WCup Germany Argentina Frank Augstein / AP/Press Association Images Mario Götze does his Christ the Redeemer impression after scoring the winning goal. Frank Augstein / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

Götze had a chance in injury time after loose pass from Biglia hands him possession on edge of area but his right foot shot was weak and in keeping with his performances up to then. But he would have his say.

Extra-time started with a bang, Schürrle shooting straight at Romero before Aguero broke up the other end and looked clean through on goal until Jerome Boateng made an excellent tackle. Aguero was away again seconds later but an exhausted looking Messi made little or no attempt to get on the end of his cross-shot.

Their 120-minute semi-final against the Netherlands just four days earlier was beginning to take its toll and how Alejandro Sabella would have loved his players to have the energy of the fans, who were still bouncing relentlessly in extra-time.

Palacio had the best chance of the game to win it when Rojo’s cross somehow found its way to him but after controlling the ball perfectly on his chest he shinned his attempted lob over Neuer and wide.

Deserved World Champions such as Germany will only give you so many chances.

Germany (4-2-3-1): Manuel Neuer; Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Benedikt Howedes; Christoph Kramer (Andre Schurrle 31), Bastian Schweinsteiger; Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil (Per Mertesacker 120); Miroslav Klose (Mario Gotze 113).

Booked: Schweinsteiger 29′, Howedes 34′

Argentina (4-4-2): Sergio Romero; Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis, Ezequiel Garay, Marcos Rojo; Ezequiel Lavezzi (Sergio Aguero ht), , Javier Mascherano, Lucas Biglia, Enzo Pérez (Fernando Gago 86); Gonzalo Higuaín (Rodrigo Palacio 78), Lionel Messi.

Booked: Mascherano 64′, Aguero 65′

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)

Attendance: 74,738

Timeline: How the 2014 World Cup final was won

Messi wins Golden Ball, James wins Golden Boot, Neuer wins Golden Gloves

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