The 2014 FIFA World Cup has concluded. Germany and Argentina gave the world a final it deserved. The two teams fought hard and had to be separated by a wonder goal from Mario Gotze that would be worthy of winning any final. Germany equaled Argentina with four World Cup titles and are now just one short of Brazil`s 5. Here are three key moments in the match that swung the tide in Germany`s favor.
Gonzalo Higuain`s miss
Despite being part of Argentina`s “Fab Four” up front, Gonzalo Higuain failed to inspire at the tournament in general. The Napoli striker will remember the final for all the wrong reasons as long as he lives. Higuain could have given Argentina the dream start as the best chance of the match fell to him in the first half.
Toni Kroos` header back to his keeper was under-hit and it landed perfectly for Higuain to take a touch and strike. Poor decision making from the forward saw him directly strike the ball on the volley and drag it wide off the goal. It was the best chance Argentina had in the entire match.
Higuain also scored a goal but he was clearly off-side. The night of the final was clearly not his as he was trapped off-side on more than one occasion. It was a frustrating display from the former Real Madrid striker, which forced Sabella to replace him with Palacio.
Joachim Loew`s substitutions
Loew has gone very quietly about his business in the tournament. Despite his team putting up the best performances during the course of the tournament, Loew has remained out of the headlines and stuck to his job. During the final, he made two inspired substitutions. First, he brought on Andre Schurrle for Chris Kramer, who suffered a minor concussion.
Second, he replaced Miroslav Klose with Mario Gotze. Both the substitutes infused energy and thrust into the German attack when it seemed like Argentina were beginning to find a foothold in the game. The duo combined in extra time to score Germany`s winner. Schurrle`s lovely run and precise cross was wonderfully chest-controlled and volleyed with his left foot by Gotze.
Bench strength of both teams
It is a well known fact to win big tournaments, a team needs to have depth in their squad. A team must have the ability to replace and rotate players when the need arises. The difference between Germany and Argentina was easily with respect to the depth in their squad. The South American`s came to the tournament with sufficient fire-power. They even kept the in-form Carlos Tevez back home. They had a fully fit squad before the tournament. Yet when they lost Angel di Maria, Sabella could not replace him with a player that made similar impact. Against Germany, he was sorely missed by Argentina especially with Hummels struggling to move late on in the game. Di Maria`s pace and skill would have posed the German defense with plenty of problems.
Contrast this with the German team, who arrived at the World Cup without three key players – Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan and Lars Bender. They lost Shkodran Mustafi in the middle of the tournament and had constant issues with Mats Hummel`s fitness. On the day of the final, they lost Sami Khedira, who pulled a calf muscle during warm-up. Loew replaced him with Chris Kramer. Unfortunately, he too suffered an injury and had to be substituted with Andre Schurrle. Germany had two quality players for every position. They never looked in trouble against Argentina despite having to make last minute changes. And ultimately it was the squad players that won Germany the game.