By Ridge Mahoney
A gripping World Cup final ended with a superb goal by Mario Goetze that earned Germany its fourth world title with a 1-0 win over Argentina in the 2014 World Cup. He was just one of many players on both squads who responded admirably to the big occasion.
7 Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich).He smothered several dangerous balls by quick, confident challenges and handled shots and crosses flawlessly. A few shots that could have tested him went wide yet he was well-positioned to handle them if needed. One of the world’s top keepers deserves his world title.
8 Philipp Lahm(Bayern Munich).The inspirational leader worked and ran for the entire 120 minutes, hit numerous crosses that required top-class defending, as did his occasional runs inside. He gave good service at defensive mid early in the tournament as Sami Khedira healed, and when restored to his primary position confirmed his status as world-class.
7 Jerome Boateng(Bayern Munich).His acrobatic clearance after Lionel Messi had knocked a ball into the six-yard box exemplified an excellent performance. He covered more and more ground as a few of his teammates fatigued.
7 Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund).Obviously tired, he really labored through extra time and wisely chose not to dive into tackles he would have missed. A decisive slide tackle stopped Sergio Aguero near the sideline in regulation, and he continued to battle on the ground and in the air as Germany drained the life out of Argentina’s attack.
5 Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke 04).Argentina found much of its success going at him, and at the other end he crashed a corner kick against the post from close range while unmarked.
4 Christoph Kramer (Bor. M'Gladbach).The last-minute replacement for Khedira, who injured himself in the pre-game warmup, looked completely lost and needed to be substituted after being injured in a fearsome collision.
8 Bastian Schweinsteiger(Bayern Munich).Defused a few promising Argentine attacks by decisive tackles and interception and his crisp passes to Thomas Mueller and Lahm initiated many offensive sequences. Took a few fierce hits late in the match and needed medical attention for a cut under his right eye.
4 Toni Kroos(Bayern Munich).Atrocious back pass provided Gonzalo Higuain with a great scoring chance. He hit a couple of very weak shots from good spots. Delivered the accurate corner kick that Hoewedes drilled off the goalpost.
6 Mesut Ozil (Arsenal).Looked lively and inventive at times but his influence waned after the substitution that took Kramer out of the game. For all his clean touches in the attacking third he could have done more with a shot or final pass.
5 Thomas Mueller(Bayern Munich).A strong start gradually gave way to poor decisions and ineffective touches. He was a bit unlucky to be offside when Hoewedes’ header came off the post and struck him, thus causing an offside situation. He set up a good chance with a run and cross while briefly stationed on the left.
4 Miroslav Klose (Lazio).The final game of his excellent career didn’t produce much, as the Argentine centerbacks neutralized him and he couldn’t shake free to find the ball.
6 Andre Schuerrle (Chelsea).Hit a couple of terrible shots and ran into double-teams from the left side, but sharpened his touches as the game unfolded. Set up the goal by measuring time and space perfectly to curl an excellent ball.
8 Mario Goetze(Bayern Munich).He did just what an attacking sub is supposed to do, and made up for a tepid shot in the final minute of regulation by cushioning Schuerrle’s cross on his chest and volleying a superb shot inside the far post.
NR Per Mertesacker (Arsenal).Last-minute sub won a header as Germany closed outits fourth world title.
7 Sergio Romero (Monaco).Batted away a point-blank shot by Schuerrle in extra time and came up with several other sharp plays to punctuate a very solid performance in this game and a very good World Cup.
5 Pablo Zabaleta (Man. City).Got forward on occasion to support the attack but was beaten cleanly by Mueller to produce a good chance and couldn’t stop Schuerrle from setting up the German goal.
7 Martin Demichelis (Man. City).Dominated in the air and won numerous tackles against many of his former Bayern Munich teammates and was the primary cause of Klose being substituted in the second half. He split open the German midfield a few times with balls to Ezequiel Lavezzi and Messi.
7 Ezequiel Garay (Benfica).Powerful clearances and confident challenges thwarted the Germans on many occasions.Like Demichelis, he didn’t get much notice until the knockout rounds as Argentina chalked up shutout after shutout, but he played a major role in his team reaching the final.
5 Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbon).Dished out a few crunching tackles and won some physical duels but too often wasn’t quick enough to challenge crosses from his side. Was also beaten in the air trying to protect the back post.
7 Javier Mascherano (Barcelona).He concluded an exemplarytournament with another solid performance, though he risked being sent off with a pair of hard challenges after being cautioned. Raced back in the final minute of regulation to jostle Goetze enough to force a weak shot.
6 Lucas Biglia (Lazio).Solid and strong defensively, he surprised the Germans occasionally by getting upfield to support the attack. Perhaps could have been more aggressive shifting out wide, but he obviously had been deployed to bottle up the middle and did stop Lahm from cutting inside a couple of times.
5 Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris SG).Caused Germany some problems with his diagonal runs and dribbles down the right flank. Nailed an excellent cross that produced a goal disallowed for offside. A bit puzzling that he came off at halftime.
4 Enzo Perez (Benfica).Produced a few promising moments in the attack but did nothing defensively to contain Lahm and Mueller, and his influence steadily faded until he was substituted late in regulation.
4 Lionel Messi (Barcelona).Suffice to stay, he didn’t come through in the final nor in the semifinal as his country needed him to do. Whether because of fatigue or nerves, he rarely caused major problems for Germany, though he did scythe up the right side twice without producing a crisp final pass or dangerous shot. Concluded his World Cup with a terrible free kick way over the bar from an impossible distance when the situation demanded a ball driven into the box.
3 Gonzalo Higuain (Napoli).Drifted unforgivably to put away Lavezzi’s cross from an offside position and shot wide when put through cleanly by a defensive miscue. He took a hard hit from keeper Neuer chasing a ball and came off in the 78th minute of a game in which he needed to do more.
5 Sergio Aguero (Man. City).He brought a lot of energy as a second-half sub but considering he played a lot of minutes against fatigued opponents he seldom impressed, and was cautioned after losing the ball for cracking Schweinsteiger trying to get it back.
4 Rodrigo Palacio (Inter Milan).His teammates put him into good spots a few times without reward.
4 Fernando Gago (Boca Juniors).Argentina’s midfield play steadily deteriorated after his entry late in regulation.
(1=low; 5-average; 10=high.)