Germany are the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ champions, lifting the Trophy for the fourth time in their history, after overcoming Argentina 1-0 courtesy of an extra-time goal by Mario Gotze at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
The substitute settled a tie that was in the balance from the first minute until the last with a finish of startling composure given the circumstances, pressure and surroundings. His strike proved the ultimate difference, with Argentina simply unable to respond in what little time remained, crowning the European heavyweights once more following their triumphs in 1954, 1974 and 1990.
A naturally frenetic beginning to the encounter brought an early sight of goal for Gonzalo Higuain. The genesis of the chance was actually a Germany free-kick, with rapid pressure from Ezequiel Lavezzi on the loose ball ultimately forcing an opportunity for his team-mate, who sought the far left corner with a low drive from an acute angle but dragged the effort too wide.
Initial Nationalmannschaft dominance in possession petered out before the quarter-hour and, in succession, Lionel Messi, Pablo Zabaleta and Philipp Lahm were left bemoaning a lack of reachable targets inside the danger zone as they carefully picked out crosses from wide.
Neither participant in the finest opening of the first 20 minutes had anybody to blame but himself. Toni Kroos miscalculated a header back to his goalkeeper, merely finding Higuain unmarked and uncatchable. The Argentina forward seemed a certain scorer as he bounded towards Manuel Neuer but contrived to instead slice a right-footer off target to the left.
With 30 minutes on the clock, the Albiceleste No9 did fire the ball into the net, but luck continued to desert the South Americans as the officials rightly adjudged him offside. After collecting a pass in freedom on the right flank, Lavezzi had swept a vicious centre along the corridor of the Germany penalty box to Higuain, who expertly guided home first time with a side-foot. But the flag was correctly raised and it remained goalless.
A moment later, Andre Schurrle was introduced by Joachim Low in place of the injured Christoph Kramer, who himself had been named in the starting XI at the last moment following an issue in the warm-up for Sami Khedira. The Chelsea attacker was involved almost immediately, controlling a Thomas Muller delivery and quickly blasting at goal – Sergio Romero saved.
Though Germany largely contained Messi in the first half, the Barcelona superstar caused alarm before the break when he galloped along the right touchline and to the near post before being crowded out by a combination of defence and goalkeeper. At the other end, composed hold-up play by Miroslav Klose teed up Kroos for a shot that was simple for Romero.
There was still time in an absorbing period for defender Benedikt Howedes to thunder a header from Kroos’ precise corner against Argentina’s right post, with Muller ruled offside as he attempted to acrobatically send in a rebound from close range.
When the two sides returned after the break, Alejandro Sabella had decided on a change, with Sergio Aguero replacing Lavezzi in an advanced position. They started the brighter too and, as previously with Higuain, Messi dispatched a shot off his strongest foot wide of the far post from a narrow angle, having been found by a cute Lucas Biglia pass.
Trademark movement from the World Cup’s all-time top scorer, Klose, married with a lofted Lahm cross but the clinical forward’s header was little trouble to Romero. With each passing minute, the match became increasingly stretched, with neither team yielding in their attacking ambitions.
Enzo Perez was somewhat fortunate to pick out talisman Messi in the 75th minute, prompting the 27-year-old to arc around a series of German challenges at the outer edge of the area. The strike was always coming but when the No10 did unleash a curler and the massed ranks of Argentinians in attendance drew breath, it skewed harmlessly off target.
Back to the other end, Mesut Ozil was accurate in passing across the field to the onrushing Kroos, who realised the need to hit the ball instantly as opponents closed in. However, Romero was able to watch his cool side-foot drift wide. The Albiceleste goalkeeper was then equally comfortable in keeping out a Gotze daisy-cutter, heralding extra time in Rio.
The pace from the outset of the additional period was relentless; Schurrle smacked straight at the keeper, Aguero looked for a colleague from the left at the conclusion of a counter-attack and saw none, while substitute Rodrigo Palacio looped the ball over Neuer but lost control after taking down a fine Marcos Rojo inswinger in space.
Then, with seven minutes of the 120 remaining, the decisive moment arrived. Schurrle bulldozed past three Argentina defenders on the left flank, drawing Sabella’s charges out of shape and clipping over them to Gotze. The 22-year-old’s technique was exquisite, scissor-kicking at an awkward height to rifle beyond the body of Romero and write his name into German and World Cup football folklore.
THE DAY REPLAYED – Karim Benzema, Thomas Muller, Neymar and James Rodriguez carried 16 goals combined and the headlines into the first day of FIFA World Cup™ quarter-finals. The masses debated which of them would emerge as match-winners in Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza. The answer was none.
Rodriguez was the only member of the quarter to score. It was a penalty. It proved in vain. The heroes’ capes at the Maracana and the Castelao belonged to defensive players. Manuel Neuer shielded the German goal magnificently, while centre-back Mats Hummels headed home to sink the French. Later, the men at the heart of the Brazilian defence, Thiago Silva and David Luiz, scored to end the Colombian dream – the France fans could hardly have imagined two Paris Saint-Germain players would find the target and they would lose 1-0. But victory came at a price for Brazil – a big one. Neymar suffered a fractured vertebrae and has been ruled out of the tournament.
All four goals today came from set-pieces: Hummels with a header from a free-kick, Thiago Silva with his thigh from a corner, David Luiz with a fierce curler from a set-piece, and Rodriguez from the spot. They mean Brazil and Germany will clash for the second time in World Cup history in Belo Horizonte.
France 0-1 Germany (Budweiser Man of the Match: Mats Hummels, GER)
Brazil 2-1 Colombia (Budweiser Man of the Match: David Luiz, BRA)
Golden gloves from Gelsenkirchen
Seconds remained at the Maracana. Karim Benzema played a one-two with Olivier Giroud and raced clen through on goal. The French striker swung back his left boot and pulled the trigger. He got power. He got accuracy. The ball flew towards the roof of the German net, seemingly destined to take the game into extra-time. That’s when Manuel Neuer flashed his hypersonic reflexes and formidable arm strength to make a superb one-handed save. Taffarel, Fabien Barthez, Marcos, Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas performed indispensable functions in the last five FIFA World Cup™-winning sides. Neuer’s form suggests the next global kings could be indebted to their goalkeeper.
United stance against discrimination
Today was the first of back-to-back FIFA Anti-Discrimination Days, and the spectators in ‘The Big Castle’ embraced it in palatial fashion. After Brazil captain Thiago Silva and his Colombia counterpart Mario Yepes had read out speeches, both were loudly cheered in a glowing representation of football’s united fight against the disease of discrimination.
Sporting Brazilians comfort a crying Colombian
Rodriguez has indubitably emerged as one of the most eye-catching players at this World Cup. It seemed nobody could mention Colombia without enthusing about their No10. When his dream was shattered, the 22-year-old playmaker sobbed uncontrollably. As soon as Daniel Alves and David Luiz noticed, they admirably took a break for celebrating in what was a carnival mood and went to comfort the Monaco No10. The duo hugged and praised Rodriguez, before David Luiz pointed to him and urged the crowd to applaud him, which they did.
20 years after Rai converted a penalty in 2-0 win over Russia, Thiago Silva became the next Brazilian captain to score in the World Cup. Socrates’ little brother failed to get on the score-sheet again at USA 1994, as did his replacement in the armband Dunga, who also failed to ripple the net as skipper at France 1998. Cafu failed to find the target as Seleção captain at Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, and Lucio followed suit at South Africa 2010. Coincidentally, Thiago Silva was the 20th on-field leader to score at Brazil 2014 – the previous record for a World Cup was 16 at Spain 1982.
Argentina-Belgium, 13:00, Estadio Nacional, Brasilia
Netherlands-Costa Rica, 17:00, Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador
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Brazil paid a heavy price for their 2-1 quarter-final defeat of Colombia in Fortaleza on Friday, with star man Neymar suffering a fractured vertebra that will cause him to miss the rest of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
“Neymar had a scan, which confirmed he had fractured his third vertebra,” said Brazilian Football Association (CBF) doctor Rodrigo Lasmar. “In terms of the recovery process, it’s a fracture that heals quickly, but unfortunately he’ll be in no condition to play next week.”
Lasmar added: “It’s not serious in the sense that it requires surgery, but he’s in pain and he’ll need to immobilise it to recover. He’ll have to have it immobilised with a belt for a few weeks to be able to get back to full mobility.”
Neymar sustained the injury in the closing stages of the match, under a challenge from a Colombian defender. The sight of the stricken No10 being carried off and then taken to hospital for scans dampened the spirits of the Brazil fans as they celebrated their side’s qualification for the last four.
While the confirmation that Neymar’s tournament is over was greeted with dismay and sadness, his team-mates are already thinking about how to make up for his absence, Hulk among them. “It’s very sad news,” said the forward. “Nobody expected this.
“We are delighted with the win but sad about this news. It’s all very frustrating. Neymar really looks after himself. He was so excited about the World Cup and he’d helped us so much. We have to get over this and run even harder for him. We’re going to try and be the champions anyway and dedicate the title to him.”
Neymar has been one of A Seleção’s stand-out performers at the World Cup, scoring four goals, but will now have to watch from the sidelines when Brazil take on Germany in next Tuesday’s semi-final in Belo Horizonte.
The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has reached a decision in the case related to Luis Suárez of Uruguay following an incident that occurred during the FIFA World Cup™ match between Italy and Uruguay played on 24 June 2014.
The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has decided that:
· The player Luis Suárez is regarded as having breached art. 48 par. 1 lit. d of the FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC) (assault), and art. 57 of the FDC (an act of unsporting behaviour towards another player).
· The player Luis Suárez is to be suspended for nine (9) official matches. The first match of this suspension is to be served in the upcoming FIFA World Cup™ fixture between Colombia and Uruguay on 28 June 2014. The remaining match suspensions shall be served in Uruguay’s next FIFA World Cup match(es), as long as the team qualifies, and/or in the representative team’s subsequent official matches in accordance with art. 38 par. 2a) of the FDC.
· The player Luis Suárez is banned from taking part in any kind of football-related activity (administrative, sports or any other) for a period of four (4) months in accordance with art. 22 of the FDC.
· A stadium ban is pronounced against the player Luis Suárez in accordance with art. 21 of the FDC as follows: the player Luis Suárez is prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium during the period of the ban (point 3). The player Luis Suárez is prohibited from entering the confines of any stadium in which the representative team of Uruguay is playing while he has to serve the nine-match suspension (point 2).
· The player Luis Suárez is ordered to pay a fine in the amount of CHF 100,000.
The decision was notified to the player and the Uruguayan FA today.
“Such behaviour cannot be tolerated on any football pitch, and in particular not at a FIFA World Cup when the eyes of millions of people are on the stars on the field. The Disciplinary Committee took into account all the factors of the case and the degree of Mr Suárez’s guilt in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Code. The decision comes into force as soon it is communicated,” said Claudio Sulser, chairman of the FIFA Disciplinary Committee.