By CARL SETTERLUND
Some may have questioned when German manager Jogi Löw subbed out the World Cup’s all-time goal scoring leader Miroslav Klose in the 88th minute, but it turned out he was just replacing one legend with another.
Substitute Mario Götze proved the hero, as the 22-year-old got on the end of left-sided cross by André Schürrle, chesting it down by the near post and then beating Sergio Romero across the body in the 113th minute for the lone goal as Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the World Cup final at Estádio Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro.
Germany won its fourth World Cup, becoming just the third nation to do so along with Brazil, which as won five, and Italy. It is Die Mannschaft’s first World Cup title since 1990 in another 1-0 game against La Albiceleste.
The Germans also notably became the first European team to win a World Cup in the Americas, providing some solace to host nation Brazil in denying rival Argentina.
La Albiceleste had several chances to score, including a long free kick for Lionel Messi in the final moments of overtime that he sent uncharacteristically off target.
Of more danger, though, Gonzalo Higuaín had two strong opportunities in the first half hour that he was unable to put away.
Argentina had a golden chance in the 21st minute when Toni Kroos had a poor turnover, sending a header back in front of goal to Higuaín. The Napoli striker folded in the big moment, though, sending his open look wide left.
There was more heartbreak for Higuaín in the 30th minute after finding himself offsides to spoil great passes by Messi and Ezequiel Lavezzi, who crossed it in for Higuaín to redirect in from close range. Higuaín didn’t realize it was called off until well into his celebration.
Germany was forced into an early substitution in the 32nd minute, bringing on the attack-minded André Schürrle to replace Cristoph Kramer, who suffered an earlier head injury.
Kramer was himself a late addition into the lineup after Sami Khedira was thought to have suffered a calf injury in warm-ups.
Messi got in down the right end line in the 40th minute, dribble it past Manuel Neuer, but he couldn’t get another touch as Jérôme Boateng swooped in for a clearance.
Messi also had the first chance of the second half, getting free for a shot at the edge of the box in the 47th minute. He sent a low shot across the face of goal, but it went just right.
Kroos had a pair of good looks at goal, most notably sending it wide right on a strong look from 20 yards in the 81st minute.
Argentina can claim it suffered from the absence of star winger Ángel di María, who was not able to play with a suspected thigh injury. Di María also missed the semifinal.
This year marked the third time Germany and Argentina have met in a World Cup final, the most any two teams have squared off (Brazil and Italy are the only two teams that have met more than once).
The epic rivalry between the two began when a Diego Maradona-led Argentina won the title in 1986, only to lose the rematch versus West Germany in 1990, a team that included Jürgen Klinsmann.
More recently, Germany had knocked La Albiceleste out of the previous two World Cups – both times in the quarterfinal round – making this the third straight time World Cup that Germany has eliminated Argentina.
Messi was awarded the small consolation of winning the Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding play, having scored four goals.
German Manuel Neuer was named the World Cup’s top goalkeeper, while Thomas Müller fell short of becoming the first player to win the Golden Boot twice, finishing with five goals to leave him one behind Colombia’s James Rodríguez.