Jul 13, 2014, 6:24 PM EDT
Germany has won the World Cup in extra time, outlasting Argentina who were up for the challenge but ultimately wasteful.
Lionel Messi wasn’t able to put the cherry on his legacy, but for Germany they put a handfull of near-misses behind them and capped off a two-decade long building process.
For a match that produced few goals, it was still full of individual performances, and that’s what we’re here to discuss.
Much of the action took place in the midfield, and that’s where we concentrate our list. But first, the hero…
5. Mario Götze
Not even born the last time Germany won the World Cup, the 22-year-old came on just as regulation came to a close, and replaced a legend. But it was he who produced the moment of brilliance, and that it was.
Settling Andre Schurrle‘s cross with a chest touch and volleying home midair, he produced a moment his country and the world will never forget, and for that it’s impossible to ignore.
Götze is the youngest scorer in a World Cup final since Wolfgang Weber in 1966. Shots of him taking in the moment after the match were chill-inducing.
Argentina’s defense has to get credit in some way, and Garay was the best of the bunch
As the match went on, the Argentinian defense had to do more and more work, and for most of it they were up to the task. Martin Demichelis had himself a great match as well, but as they tired he did too, and was at fault for not tracking Mario Götze on the final blow, Germany’s goal.
Garay completed 35/40 passes including just two giveaways in his own half, and led the match with 11 clearances. He tracked Miroslav Klose very well, and had the most energy of his defense as the match waned on. The Argentinian defense didn’t concede for nearly 500 minutes before Götze’s winner, and Garay was a leader at the back.
From Argentina’s defense now to Germany’s defense, Boateng was a rock. He often pressed up high to support the midfield, and pumped long balls up forward as well. Those long balls ended up bringing his passing numbers down, but his marking abilities – even with the high line – were near perfect.
He also completed all six of his attempted tackles, meaning he was incredibly hard to beat on the ball. He won 4/6 duels in the air, and cleared the ball nine times.
His brother is embroiled in controversy with the Ghanan national team, but for Jerome, it’s delight at the end of the 2014 World Cup.
Lionel Messi wore the captain’s armband, but it’s clear who ran the midfield: Mascherano. A star performance all tournament, Mascherano was a physical presence that punished Germany every time it tried to enter the middle of the pitch.
He probably should have earned a second yellow card a few times, but let off a couple of times, he rewarded his team.
Messi won the Golden Ball for player of the tournament (more on that ridiculous decision later) but Mascherano was the best player on the Argentinian team.
This is actually a relatively obvious choice. Punished repeatedly by physical Argentinian play, Schweinsteiger got up and responded every single time. When Sami Khedira went down just minutes before kickoff with an injury, young Christoph Kramer came in.
Schweinsteiger knew he would have to provide the youngster with cover already, but when Kramer himself got his bell rung and replaced by an attacker in Schurrle, it was the 29-year-old who took the middle of the pitch and made it his own.
As Messi felt the need to drop deeper and deeper into the midfield, he found himself smothered by Schweinsteiger, and he was able to distribute the passes as well. He finished with 94 completed passes in 105 attempts, a 90% completion rate and the most completed passes of anyone on the field.
It’s not the first time Schweinsteiger’s put in a performance like this for either club or country, but he’d been somewhat of a princess this tournament, whining to the referee constantly and shying away from physicality, along with making silly challenges. Not today. He was the Schweinsteiger of old, and ruled the midfield of a World Cup final, and for that is our Man of the Match.
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