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Thriller in Rio

Götze fires Germans to fourth world crown

Fully 24 years since their last global triumph, Bayern-inspired Germany are once again the champions of world football. FCB starlet Mario Götze struck a superb winner after 113 minutes of a tense and evenly-matched final in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday to seal a hard-fought but deserved 1-0 victory over Argentina and seal a fourth world crown for the Germans to go with their previous triumphs in 1954, 1974 and 1990.

Once again, a six-strong FCB contingent comprising Manuel Neuer, Philipp Lahm, Jérôme Boateng, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller were named in national coach Joachim Löw’s starting line-up, although there was a late change when Sami Khedira pulled up with a hamstring injury in the warm-up. The crucial Real Madrid defensive midfielder was replaced by Christoph Kramer of Borussia Mönchengladbach, although the youngster was forced off injured after barely half an hour.

In an end-to-end first half the defensive Argentinians were prepared to leave possession to the Germans, but their counter-attacks posed a truly dangerous threat. Gonzalo Higuain latched onto a loose Kroos return header after 21 minutes and found himself with only Neuer to beat, but dragged his shot wide. Germany slowly but surely seized the initiative and came closest to opening the scoring, but Kroos fired wide from a promising position and Benedikt Höwedes headed against a post from point-blank range.

Götze seals it

The South Americans were the livelier team in the early exchanges after the restart, with superstar Lionel Messi coming close on 47 minutes. The Germans probed for gaps in the defence superbly marshalled by ex-FCB centre-back Martin Demichelis, but the Gauchos defended with tremendous discipline and surprising energy. The match remained goalless until the end of the regulation 90 minutes, with Götze coming on for the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer and former Munich striker Miroslav Klose in the 89th minute.

In an increasingly bitter fight, with Schweinsteiger on the end of a series of mean fouls and requiring stiches to a head wound after a blow from an Argentine elbow, neither side truly dominated the play for a long spell. It always looked likely that a moment of genius might decide it, and it came when sub André Schürrle hared clear down the left and centred for Götze to control brilliantly on his chest before volleying home into the far corner and sealing the Germans’ fourth world title.