After the final whistle sounded in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday evening, Germany’s players gave free rein to their emotions. Bastian Schweinsteiger cried uncontrollably, Manuel Neuer draped himself in a black, red and gold flag and Miroslav Klose could not stop smiling. The Estadio do Maracana provided the backdrop to a historic occasion as Germany became the first European team to win the FIFA World Cup™ in South America thanks to a 1-0 extra-time victory over Argentina.
Having scored the winner, Mario Gotze was understandably a man in demand among his team-mates as the celebrations got into full swing, and the youngster himself - normally such a cool figure - was ecstatic. He had every reason to be, after his spectacular 113th minute strike earned his country a fourth World Cup title. “Andre [Schurrle] put in a superb ball and I was able to control it on my chest,” a somewhat incredulous Gotze told FIFA afterwards. “Then somehow the ball was in the net.”
Lost for words
It was the moment the 22-year-old Bayern Munich attacker truly become a global star, with an astonishing piece of skill that catapulted an entire nation into raptures. “Everything happened so quickly but it was great to see how much of a release it gave the team and how we still fought right until the very end,” Gotze said. “We thoroughly deserved to win it because we’re a great side. It’s an indescribable moment.” Despite only being brought on as an 88th minute substitute, Gotze still did enough to be named as Budweiser Man of the Match and to become a national hero in his homeland.
“It’s difficult to put it into words,” Gotze continued. “I can’t describe what it’s like in the changing room right now. It’s probably exactly the same back in Germany. I think we played well as a team throughout the whole tournament and every one of us deserves this. It’s a great feeling for everyone in Germany and for us as a team."
Andre [Schurrle] put in a superb ball and I was able to control it on my chest, then somehow the ball was in the net.
Indeed, it is exactly that togetherness that set Germany apart in Brazil. After coming in for criticism after the first few matches Gotze lost his place in the starting line-up, but he always remained a firm fixture in coach Joachim Low’s plans, able to slot into a variety of positions on the pitch. And when it mattered most in the Final it was not Klose, the World Cup’s freshly-minted all-time leading scorer, or Thomas Muller, who took his tournament goal tally to ten after adding to the five he hit at South Africa 2010, but Gotze who struck the winner.
It also speaks volumes for the depth of quality in the side that Germany were able to compensate both for the sudden and unexpected withdrawal of Sami Khedira through injury shortly before kick-off, and for Christoph Kramer’s departure in the 31st minute. Their triumph was truly a team effort.
“You can’t win a World Cup with just 11 or 14 players,” said German Football Association president, Wolfgang Niersbach, in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “You need 23 players and that’s precisely the mindset Germany had here in Brazil. Team spirit was the secret to our success. We didn’t have one standout player like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Mario Balotelli.”
The victory has ensured that a group of players led by captain Philipp Lahm and midfield orchestrator Bastian Schweinsteiger will go down in history as a golden generation in German football. “Winning the World Cup at the Maracana in Rio - it doesn’t get any better than that,” said a visibly moved Niersbach, expressing a thought that is only likely to dawn on the players over the next few days. Waiting at home are hundreds of thousands of fans eager to give them a heroes’ welcome in Berlin, but before then Gotze and Co will undoubtedly be celebrating long into the night in Rio.