Extra-time thriller makes Germany the first European side to win a World Cup in South America — and crushes.
Mario Gotze scored a superb extra-time winner as Germany beat Argentina 1-0 to become the first European team to win a World Cup held in South America.
Bayern Munich star Gotze struck in the 113th minute of a gripping battle at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium as Argentina superstar Lionel Messi's hopes of emulating Diego Maradona ended in defeat.
Germany have now won four World Cups, putting the European powerhouse just one behind Brazil's top tally of five.
"It's unbelievable what we have achieved. Whether we have the best individual player doesn't matter at all, you just need to have the best team," said delighted Germany captain Philipp Lahm.
German coach Joachim Low revealed he had encouraged Gotze to eclipse Argentina star Messi when he came on as an 88th minute substitute.
"I told Mario Gotze, 'go out and show the world you are better than Messi'," he said.
Germany's win sparked an explosion of joy in their homeland and in host nation Brazil, which had been dreading the prospect of South American rivals Argentina winning the title on its territory.
Yesterday's dramatic finale came after a month-long footballing carnival widely regarded as one of the best World Cups ever.
Gotze's winner equalled the record tally for goals at a 32-team World Cup. The 171 goals from 64 games equalled the number set in France in 1998.
Fittingly, Gotze's strike was another memorable effort in a tournament brimming with spectacular individual goals.
A gripping final before 74,738 spectators, which included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, looked headed for penalties after both sides had failed to break through stubborn defending with the scores deadlocked at 0-0.
But with just seven minutes of extra time left, Andre Schuerrle burst down the left flank and crossed for Gotze. The 22-year-old took the ball on his chest and then volleyed past Sergio Romero to spark delirium among the Germans.
With seconds remaining Messi had the chance to conjure an equaliser, but the free kick sailed high over the bar and Germany had won.
It was a bitterly disappointing end to the World Cup for Messi, who was named player of the tournament despite the loss.
But the prize was scant consolation for the 27-year-old four-time world footballer of the year, who had been keen to emulate Maradona by guiding Argentina to the World Cup.
Messi had also missed a good chance early in the second half when he dragged a low shot wide of German stopper Manuel Neuer's goal.
It followed another gilt-edged chance wasted by Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain in the first half, when clean through on goal, the Napoli scuffed his shot off-target.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella was left ruing his team's missed chances as he reflected on a final defeat which mirrored Argentina's 1-0 loss to Germany in 1990.
"They had more possession, but we had more cutting edge, more chances," lamented Sabella.
"When there are chances in a game that is so evenly balanced, you have to take them. We lacked a bit of efficiency."
Sabella meanwhile defended the contribution of Messi.
"It is a very demanding tournament and it drains everyone physically," Sabella said. "He is already among the greatest of all time."
Colombia's James Rodriguez finished the tournament as top scorer to win the Golden Boot with six goals.
Germany's Neuer won the Golden Glove award for the tournament's best goalkeeper.