German generation is golden, but Messi magic fades in final
Joachim Low’s story, a decade in the making, is complete. Germany are world champions again after 24 years of near misses, and for the first time under a reunified banner. In the intervening years, they won just one major trophy, Euro ’96.
Once again Die Mannschaft are kingpins of the beautiful game; their largely youthful side coming of age replacing Spain’s era of unprecedented dominance. Low’s lads wear their global crown well.
Germany substitute Mario Gotze gave them glory with an extra time near to far post chest and volley, ably assisted by Andre Schurrle, another off the bench. Argentina had no response in what was a dramatic, rather than great, final. Alejandro Sabella’s side failed to get a single shot on target, yet had the clearer openings with Gonzalo Higuain left to rue spurning them.
Argentine inspiration Lionel Messi controversially scooped the Golden Ball prize for best player at the tournament. His four goals all came in the group stage, two less than Golden Ball winner James Rodriguez, so his knockout phase contribution left a lot to be desired.
Sabella shamelessly admitted Argentina’s over-reliance on him. If Messi was their water in the desert, then his oasis ran dry. Instead, the standout performer was rugged holding player Javier Mascherano, who put in so much hard work to fighting fires throughout.
In the final, Messi was once again a peripheral figure, crowded out and forced too deep to be effective. His free kick sailing harmlessly over at the end of extra time summed his displays when they really mattered. Conjecture will surely follow as other more deserving candidates in the minds of commentators are put forward with the just question ‘why not them?’
What is not in doubt, though, is that the best team lifted the World Cup. And the scary thing is, Germany were missing several first-team regulars at this tournament. No natural left back because of injury to Marcel Schmelzer proved no barrier, while Holger Badstuber has been on the treatment table for over 18 months.
Low’s faith in sweeper keeper, and Golden Glove recipient, Manuel Neuer was so steadfast that he felt able to afford leaving highly-rated understudy Marc-Andre ter Stegen behind, so he could settle in following a move to Barcelona.
Bender brothers, Lars and Sven, were missing from the midfield shield in front of the back four, while deep-lying playmaker Ilkay Gundogan spent the entire club campaign sidelined. Attacking pair Marco Reus and Mario Gomez completed Die Mannschaft’s injury absentees.
You can’t help but wonder how Low will fit all these players into his plans going forward. The striking berth is something for him to look at in qualification for Euro 2016, with World Cup record scorer Miroslav Klose surely now finished at international level.
Die Mannschaft are 7/2 favourites to be crowned European champions in France in two years’ time and, on the evidence from Brazil, it will take something stellar to stop them adding the continental competition to global glory.
And what price Germany retain the World Cup in Russia in 2018? They’re the most-fancied at 5/1.