Lionel Messi is the new holder of the Golden Ball, the award for World Cup best player, voted by the representatives of the media after FIFA committee generated a shortlist.
Despite not managing to lead Argentina to the title like Diego Maradona did in 1986, and despite suffering from extreme fatigue for some time now, Lionel Messi was voted to get the award.
Messi scored four goals in this tournament but didn't score a single one in the knockout stage, and recorded one assist. Messi is taking the Golden Ball from Diego Forlan (Uruguay), who was voted the best player in the 2010 World Cup, Uruguay finishing fourth.
The other main candidates were Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller, and both could feel a bit upset that the award went to Messi. Robben in particular played better seven matches than Messi did, and was the most consistent player in the tournament.
Germany are the new World champions, and have won their fourth title after 1954, 1974 and 1990. Their big rival from the golden period of West Germany, Argentina, remain on two titles as they have missed the three golden goalscoring chances they've had during the match. The score was 0-0 in regular time, and Mario Goetze scored the winning goal in the 113th minute. This was the first goal Argentina conceded in the knockout stage.
Germany therefore finally win the world title since national reunification, and they are no longer in the shadow of West Germany, which dominated world football for more than a decade. Argentina, on the other hand, failed to relive the 1986 dream when Diego Maradona led Argentina to World title against West Germany.
The match was very physical and there wasn't much space to work with. Referee Nicola Rizzoli tolerated such physical play to the extent where he failed to send off Manuel Neuer for a potentially debilitating foul on Gonzalo Higuain. Germany dictated play but Argentina enjoyed the lion's share of good chances, but failed to score any of them, finishing the match with only 2 shots on target in 120 minutes.
In the first half there were very few chances, and the most common result in the knockout stage happened here as well, 0-0 at half time. Argentina seem to have been preoccupied with not letting the Germans spread their wings - literally - and start playing like they did against Brazil, and so the Germans spent this half dictating play but not getting much from it. Argentina played a narrow defence, not covering the wings at all, and Alejandro Sabella deserves credit for keeping the mighty German offense quiet.
In the second half Argentina ran out determined to make things happen and they were the better opponent. Until the end of regular time they will enjoy several golden chances to score when a player was all alone with the goalkeeper, and Rodrigo Palacio missed the best chance. The Germans had their share of half-chances but it wasn't enough to score against the comosed and concentrated Argentina.
In the first half of extra time both teams had one good chance each, the Argentinian one being much better, but it would prove to be the last one Argentina will have in this match. If they scored it would all be over, but they didn't, and the Germans finally broke through in the 113th minute. Andre Schurrle did all the work with a speedy run on the left wing and passed to unmarked Mario Goetze who expertly scored a half-volley for 1-0.
The Brazilian hearts will sink as Argentina and Germany run out on Maracana pitch today at 20.00 UK time to play the 2014 World Cup finals. The Germans are favored to win it after their impressive display against Brazil, and defensive Argentina can only hope Lionel Messi can follow Maradona's footsteps and bring them the title against Germany like Maradona did in 1986.
From 1974 to 1990, in five World Cups during that period, the final would see either Argentina or Germany, with the 1986 and 1990 finals seeing these two teams fight for the title. In 1986 Argentina won it 3-2, and four years later the teams met again and Germany won 1-0. Since Maradona retired, Argentina have been absent from semifinals and this is their first good World Cup performance in 24 years. The Germans aren't in a different situation as since national reunification they have only won one European Championship, in 1996 in England, coming close to the World title in 2002 but losing the final to Brazil. All the World Cup titles were won by West Germany, and Germany haven't got a single one. They're still in the shadow of the West German team which dominated the globe decades ago.
Argentina haven't been spectacular but they also haven't conceded a single goal in the knockout stage so far, and haven't lost a match in this tournament. Argentina deserve credit for playing good defence, and Javier Mascherano is the key man in this part of the Argentinian team. In offense, there is very little risk, and the general idea is for Angel Di Maria to deliver the ball to Lionel Messi and try to score the goal with three or four players finishing off the attacks. This is not what people expected from Argentina but it works, they've reached the final, and with Messi they got a player who can break the deadlock anytime.
Germany are different, they owe their success so far to fantastic offensive movement. The Germans don't dribble, but instead move around expertly exploiting open space. That's how they scored seven against Brazil, just by routinely doing what they usually do. The German machine does it that way, effortlesly grinding down the opponent, but there have been matches in this World Cup where they couldn't to what they want because the opponent deprived them of space. They didn't score in regular time against Algeria, they scored only once against USA, and were struggling to control the match against Ghana. Germany can be stopped, but one lapse in concentration is enough to give them the victory.
Nicola Rizzoli from Italy will be the referee, and he already officiated two Argentina's match in this tournament. He is a quality referee and we can expect the final to be perfect in this aspect.
Argentinian fans will invade Maracana, but the Brazilian ones who bought the tickets for the final expecting the hosts to be there will definitely give loud support to Germany. The Brazilians don't want Argentina to win the World title on a stadium which is the spiritual home of their football. They're dreading such a scenario and will support the Germans.
So far, European nations have failed to win the title on South American soil, and if Germany win it, that would be the first.
Football Issue's Betting Partner for the 2014 World Cup is Sky Bet - the best action and the best betting prices.