Michael Burgess: Germans ride their luck to claim World Cup

German players celebrate with the World Cup trophy following a 1-0 win over Argentina. Photo / AP
German players celebrate with the World Cup trophy following a 1-0 win over Argentina. Photo / AP

It's already in the history books but Argentina might wonder how this game got away.

No one will begrudge Germany the title, but they were certainly a touch fortunate to claim their fourth World Cup in Rio today.

It's not that they didn't play well - but Argentina carved out the better chances - and should have scored goals in both regulation time and extra time.

But you make your own luck in football, and as they have done since the 'Miracle of Berne' in 1954, Germany's battled through moments of real adversity and then found a way to win.

Gonzalo Higuain's first half miss will be dissected heavily over the next few days, and remembered for years in the barrios of Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Rosario. It was a shocker.

Mario Goetze slots home the winning goal.

Photo / AP

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After a misdirected German defensive header in the 21st minute, Higuain was alone and through on goal. The Napoli striker had time - he could have even taken another touch - and to not even get his shot on target was inexcusable.

Later in the first half Higuain had the ball in the net, but had failed to stay onside, which was a cardinal sin in the circumstances as the cross had been telegraphed.

It was then you got the feeling that it might not be Argentina's day. The massed ranks of sky and white supporters, who occupied almost the entire southern end of the Maracana Stadium, certainly did, as they looked to the heavens in disbelief.

The third clear cut chance fell to substitute Rodrigo Palacio early in the first spell of extra time.

The Inter Milan striker found himself free in the area, around ten yards from goal, with only Manuel Neuer to beat. Unfortunately for the South American side, Palacio, just like he did late in the semi final against Netherlands, made the wrong decision with the goal at his mercy. He tried an ambitious chip - over the 1.93m Neuer - which needed to defy physics. It's always easy from the grandstand, and in hindsight, but all it required was a toe poke into either corner.

Argentine media had characterised this match as "El Juego de Los Papas" (The battle of the Popes) and Germany had someone looking after them at this stage.

Germany's had chances too - and applied plenty of pressure - but none as clear-cut as the Argentinian opportunities. But replacement striker Mario Goetze showed the South Americans what world class finishing is all about, with a stunning volley from a difficult angle late in the second half of extra time.

The stadium erupted with an incredible, ear splitting roar. It wasn't just the German fans - it was mostly the local Brazilians, who had been living the nervous nightmare of an Argentine win on their soil for days.

Argentina's Pablo Zabaleta lies on the pitch as Lionel Messi stands beside him. Photo / AP

"They can't win here," said one fan before the game. "It would be worse than [Brazil's loss in] 1950. They would never stop talking about it."

The match itself was a classic, with an amazing amount of attacking intent by the standards of the World Cup final. Often there was barely a moment to catch your breath, with a chance at one end followed by a near miss at the other.

In the end the best team at this tournament walked away with the World Cup - which hasn't always been the case down the years - but on another day the result could have been very different.

- NZ Herald

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