Next stop Russia 2018! See you then for that!
Congratulations to Germany, the champions of the world! A richly deserved prize. And commiserations to Argentina, who never quite got going in this World Cup, but were certainly the second-best team in it, and should look back on their month's work with some satisfaction once the pain subsides.
And eventually, after a wait of 78 hours, it's time to let Germany, the 2014 World Cup winners, take to the podium. Handshakes and hugs all round, from that clown Blatter and the German chancellor Angela Merkel. Medals are handed out. Some incredibly bad music booms from the PA. Thankfully it's turned down, just before Phillipp Lahm is handed the trophy. He snatches it off Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who had in turn been given it by some other Fifa waste of space, and goes back to meet the rest of his team before rising the World Cup into the Rio air! At which point the music is turned on again, and fireworks go off, but no amount of Fifa mishandling is going to ruin the German party!
Argentina finally, after all that ludicrous nonsense, go up to receive their runners-up medals. Messi makes his most determined run of the knockout stages, zipping through a German guard of honour to lead his team to the prizes they never wanted. Messi looks in a murderous mood. Fifa really did riff on Argentina's pain there, but particularly Messi's. He's just lost a World Cup final! Did they have to put him through all that? Did they expect him to smile for the photos?
Sepp Blatter takes an age to turn up. This is OK for Germany, but pity poor Argentina, who just want to scuttle off, and are forced to wait on the pitch for an absurd length of time. Blatter is met with a stadium full of boos. Good, the corpulent oaf. And then, well, this is effing ridiculous! Individual awards are presented, for best goalkeeper and best player, to Manuel Neuer and an understandably pissed-off Lionel Messi. This is a farce. Fifa are a shower of clowns. Do they not realise there's a World Cup to lift here?
Helmut Rahn. Gerd Muller. Andy Brehme. And now Mario Götze. What an exclusive club he's joined: players who have scored a World Cup winning goal for Germany! The young man looks utterly stunned at what he's just done. He's a picture of mellow satisfaction. It's not a smug look. He's staring into the middle distance, clearly trying to process what's just happened to him. He looks to the skies, then back to the stands again. His team-mates are cavorting as you'd expect, but he's a man alone, drinking in every sensation, enjoying every moment, keeping it for the memory banks. His life will never be the same again. It's a lovely picture, a lovely moment.
Bedlam on the pitch! Löw is grinning from ear to ear! The hero of the hour, Goetze, appears to be stunned as much as delighted. What a goal he scored! A goal worthy of winning a World Cup final! The sort of thing, in fact, folk were expecting from Lionel Messi. But it was not to be for Argentina. Sabella looks crushed, the poor man. Mascherano is in tears, as is Aguero. Messi runs his fingers through his hair in despair. It would have been a different story, perhaps, had Gonzalo Higuain been wearing his shooting boots. But Germany deserved the victory, both on their display tonight, and in the tournament overall.
EXTRA TIME, FULL TIME: Germany 1-0 Argentina
... blooters a spectacularly awful effort miles over the bar. Oh dear. And that is that! GERMANY ARE THE WINNERS OF THE 2014 WORLD CUP! THEY'RE CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD FOR THE FOURTH TIME!!!
ET 30 min +3: Messi stands over the free kick, rubs a hand over his anxious face, and ...
ET 30 min +2: Schweinsteiger is down with cramp. What tension!
ET 30 min +1: Messi doesn't fancy dying wondering, though. He picks up the ball and races with purpose down the inside-right channel. Schweinsteiger clatters into him, 30 yards from goal. That'll be a free kick, and a last chance for Argentina to save their World Cup dream!
ET 30 min: Messi looks distraught. As well he might; he's done nothing tonight. There will be two added minutes for Argentina to redeem themselves.
ET 29 min: Muller races down the left, and has a shot from a tight angle. It whistles straight through the area. Ozil is sacrificed for Mertesacker.
ET 28 min: A ball whipped into the German area from the left. Messi, on the edge of the area, attempts to Luis Suarez a header into the net from distance. It's over, and Neuer had it covered anyway.
ET 27 min: Rojo chases a long, bouncing hoof down the left. He nearly latches onto it, but Neuer is quickly off his line to tip the ball over the rampaging full back, then catch it after circumventing a player who already has his head in his hands in despair.
ET 26 min: Rojo whips a cross into the box from the left. Palacio tries to get a head on it, but in attempting to guide an effort into the top right, sends the ball up, up and away. A further attempt to get the move going again sees Messi fail to keep a heavy pass in down the right.
ET 25 min: Bedlam in the Maracana. Argentina can't get hold of the ball. Where's Messi?
GOAL!!! Germany 1-0 Argentina (Goetze ET 23)
Suddenly a fourth World Cup is on for Germany! And what a goal! Schurlle goes on a romp down the left. He powers downfield, and hoicks a perfect looping pass into the centre, where Goetze chests down and pokes a brilliant finish past Romero into the right-hand side of the net! A fantastic finish!
ET 22 min: Schweinsteiger, patched up, is back on. Palacio tugs at Lahm's shirt. Free kick. The German bench springs up as though Palacio's cut off both of his legs. Calm down, says Löw, in the middle of the rumpus.
ET 19 min: Schweinsteiger is in the wars again, and this time it's Aguero who needs to be careful. He slaps an arm into the German midfieder's face, drawing blood from under his right eye. He'll need to go off for treatment. Aguero should be off for good, if not for a straight red, then at least a yellow. On the touchline, an incandescent Khedira is jumping from foot to foot in a hot funk, throwing semaphore shapes that spell out EFF and CEE. Lucky Argentina.
ET 17 min: Mascherano wants to watch himself here. He slides in late on Schweinsteiger, upending the German. Free kick, which Kroos witlessly lumps into the box. Argentina don't have David Luiz in the centre of their defence, and aren't falling for that particular grift.
And we're off again! Argentina get the ball rolling. Then Germany start tapping it around. A lot of players thinking about penalties already, I'll be bound.
Extra-time, half-time entertainment: Here's resident court jester Mac Millings, hopping around, demanding attention, the bells on his hat clanking away. "Phil Sawyer here accused me of being one who makes 'laboured puns'. Laboured, eh? Just for that, here's my All-Time World Cup Workers' XI, also known as Workers of the World United. Only one of them (I think) never actually appeared in a World Cup squad, but he'd have done mighty well, I'll wager. A warm sense of misplaced pride to the reader who can spot which member of the XI it is.
- Bolsheviktor Valdés
- Jordan Ayewgene Debs
- Power to the Peo-Paul Gascoigne
- From Each According to his Abel Xavier
- To Each According to his Johan Needs-kens
- Klaas-Warfare Huntelaar
- Workers of the World, André Ayew-nite!
- The rich get richer and the poor get Paul Pogba
- Peace, Bread and Landon Donovan
- Karl-Marx Rummenigge
- Dixie Deans of Production
EXTRA TIME, HALF TIME: Germany 0-0 Argentina
Another 15 minutes, please!
ET 15 min: A really dismal crossfield pass by Kroos is intercepted by Palacio. There's a break on, but he hesitates with Aguero hovering to scoot clear on the left, and Lahm puts a stop to his little scheme. Poor all round.
ET 13 min: Argentina are offering very little up front. Aguero embarks on an absurdly intricate dribble down the left, but after cutting inside ties himself up in knots and can't get enough on the dink forward he prods in the general direction of Messi.
ET 12 min: Mascherano slides in on Schweinsteiger, catching the German's instep and causing a wee bit of pain. Not worthy of a booking, which is just as well given that Mascherano has already been yellow carded. A strong suspicion that Schweinsteiger is simply after a wee rest. Fair enough.
ET 10 min: Lahm drops a shoulder down the right. The box is loaded with German players, but Mascherano is there to intercept. The tension is getting the better of everyone right now, though Germany will at least take succour that most of the play is in the Argentinian half.
ET 7 min: WHAT A MISS pt. III!!! Rojo loops a stunning ball into the German area from the left. It's perfect, taking out Hummels, and leaving Palacio alone on the penalty spot! He can't quite get the ball under control, though, and with Neuer racing from his line, tries to scoop a Phil Mickelson pitching wedge over the keeper and into the empty net. He gets the ball up and down, albeit with his shin, and the effort flies harmlessly left of the target.
ET 5 min: I spoke too soon. We're back to the probing.
ET 3 min: A strong start to extra time all right! Aguero powers down the left. He's got nobody in the middle, so despite having nearly reached the byline, goes for goal. The shot fizzes straight through the six-yard area and out of play on the other side. This is better from both sides. Almost as if everyone's been reminded where they are, and what they're trying to achieve.
And we're off again! And within the first 60 seconds, there's openings at both ends! Schurrle is afforded too much time down the left, and hammers a shot from a tight-ish angle towards the top right. Romero parries brilliantly. Then Messi and Aguero look to break upfield, but Boateng gets in the way of a loose pass with a two-on-two developing.
Huddles, etc. Sabella is very animated. Messi doesn't seem to be listening very much, and walks off halfway through the team talk. What a captain! Meanwhile Löw pops off to the loo, to fix his hair, or perchance a jobby. "I've never been so happy to see a game go to extra time because it means this World Cup isn't over," writes Kári Tulinius. "I'm not ready for the World Cup to be over. Can't they just start all over again tomorrow?" Don't be giving the Fifa moneymen ideas, for goodness sake. They'll do anything for a bag of beans.
FULL TIME: Germany 0-0 Argentina
And that's that! Argentina haven't had a shot on target yet, while Germany have only three, and none of them much good. 30 more minutes, please!
90 min +2: Ozil goes on a long ramble down the right. He cuts back, sashays across the edge of the area, then semi-releases Muller into the area down the left. Muller's rushed low cross is sent into the middle under pressure, and dealt with easily by Garay.
90 min +1: Messi dances down the right, avoiding a couple of agricultural challenges, then very nearly frees Aguero down the inside-right channel. Neuer comes out to hack clear. Germany go up the other end through Goetze, whose daisyroller from 30 yards nestles slowly in the arms of Romero.
90 min: There will be three added minutes. Any late drama, then?
88 min: And this is the end of Miroslav Klose's astonishing World Cup career. Unless he rocks up in Russia in 2018 aged 40. He's replaced by Goetze, having scored a record 16 goals at assorted finals. The furthest out was a penalty kick. And by some distance, as well! What a poacher.
87 min: Messi has the ball at his feet, just on the edge of the German D. Preparing to shoot, he hesitates and is denied by a fantastic Boateng challenge. Then Biglia looks to batter the loose ball goalwards from 25 yards, but Schweinsteiger slides in to deny him. Wonderful tackle.
86 min: A final change by Sabella, who swaps Perez for Gago.
84 min: Messi flicks a clever pass down the inside-left channel. He's looking to free Aguero, but the striker loses his footing and skitters around on his face awhile. "This is the tournament in microcosm, as Niall Mullen said earlier," argues Ann Sharpe. "Exciting first half, if lacking in outstanding performers, followed by niggly, disappointing second half."
82 min: Lahm makes a powerful run down the right, then slides the ball foward for Ozil, who pulls pack to Schurrle, on the edge of the area, romping down the inside-right channel. Schurrle meets it first time, but his low shot, meant for the bottom right, is always going wide. Germany on top again. Neither team has managed to keep applying pressure for long. Yet.
80 min: A corner for Germany down the right leads to naught, but the second phase sees the ball stick to the feet of Howedes, of all people, on the penalty spot with his back to goal. He's swarmed by Argentinian defenders, and the ball's hacked clear. But then a third phase of German pressure, Lahm lifting a cross in from the right, a minor [pulls item from back of trousers] brouhaha developing at the far post. Germany weakly claim a penalty, but that's nothing more than a goal kick.
78 min: Messi appears to be awakening from his slumber. He glides in from the right, draws a couple of challenges, then clips a clever little ball forward into space in the area. Neuer is much quicker to it than Aguero, and the chance is gone. Lovely approach play, though.
77 min: Aguero hasn't done much, but he's working hard. He pesters Howedes down the right and wins a throw deep in German territory. Before it can be wasted - because it's wasted - Palacio replaces Higuain, whose night this hasn't been. A disallowed goal, and that missed chance when set clear by Kroos's misplaced defensive header. Such a thin line between success and failure.
75 min: Ah, here he is! He picks up the ball to the right of the German box, jigs back along in a big semi-circle towards the right-hand corner of the D, then attempts a curler into the top left. Shades of Iran, though this one's not on target. Much, much better from a world-class talent who's looked desperately out of sorts this week.
73 min: Where's Messi?
71 min: Germany triangulate beautifully down the inside-right channel, Muller, Ozil and Schurrle all involved. Tiki taka is not dead! Muller then slides a ball into the area for Muller, who breaks clear with only Romero to beat, but lets the ball clank off his shin and towards Romero. Nearly. Not quite.
69 min: It's open, this game, though there's not very much clever play going on. Higuain lumps the ball into the German area from the right. Neuer punches clear. Howedes zips down the left, only to hoick a cross of play down the right. Not even a corner. The first half was goalless and brilliant. This is goalless and ... well, not so much.
67 min: The Argentinian fans are making an awful lot of noise here. Muller, on the halfway line down the right, looks for Schurrle on the edge of the area with a long ball. Demichelis wins the header and sends the ball into the arms of Romero, who then engages Schurrle in a Hegelian dialectic. All good old-fashioned verbal sparring, but this is one ludicrous tackle away from descending into a full-on, eh, donnybrook.
65 min: Now Aguero is booked for arriving very late on Schweinsteiger. Yellow card. Yes, this game has a 1990 aesthetic all right!
64 min: Mascherano gives the ball away in midfield and, chasing back to atone, scythes down Klose. He's booked.
63 min: A corner for Argentina down the left, well earned by Aguero, who bustles away and panics Hummels. From it, Demichelis wins a header level with the left-hand post. It's heading goalwards but flicks off Klose's head. No corner, though. A lot of shouting as a result, but that's a goal kick, courtesy of the referee.
62 min: Schurrle robs Zabaleta down the German left and makes off down the wing. His fast, low cross is meant for Muller, but clanks off Ozil and zips out of play to the left.
61 min: Lahm, on a rococo ramble from the right wing, plays a clever reverse ball down the inside-right channel. A bit less juice, and he'd have sprung Muller clear. Germany are getting back into this.
59 min: Muller in a little space down the right. He loops a cross into the area. Klose meets it, six yards out, but there's no power in his effort, and though it's on target, heading for the top left, Romero claims easily enough.
57 min: Higuain chases a bouncing ball down the right. He doesn't get there, because Neuer comes to the left-hand corner of his area, punches clear for a throw, and then plants his knee into Higuain's ear. All accidental, this isn't Schumacher-Battiston! But after all that, it's a free kick to Germany! Argentina are rightly incensed - it should probably be a throw to Argentina, and nothing more - but Higuain had done little wrong.
55 min: The Germans wake up. Schurrle, despite being fouled by Zabaleta, plays a lovely reverse dink down the inside-left channel to release Muller, whose low fizzing cross into the centre is hacked out by Garay. Corner on the left, from which Muller is penalised for a light tug on the shirt of Demichelis. Argentina were in the business of clearing, in any case. But that was a little better from Germany, who haven't looked particularly happy since the restart.
53 min: A lot of possession for Argentina, who appear happy to wear Germany out a little. The Germans need to wake up, and quick.
50 min: Germany do appear rattled. They've yet to start this half. A ball hoicked into the area from the Argentinian left gives Higuain a half-chance to batter a shot from the edge of the area. But he swings and misses. Then Messi is sent into space down the right, but can't find a way to thread a killer pass inside. "Surely there's only room for one use of 'stramash' per report?" wonders Niall Hodson. "What's wrong with a good old-fashioned 'rumpus'?" Sorry for being repetitive. And there's me with a brouhaha in my back pocket too.
49 min: Germany's slow start may or may not have something to do with being buggered about by Argentina just before the teams took to the pitch again. Germany were forced to wait for two minutes in the tunnel. Lahm, however, wasn't having any of it, and ignoring referee's instructions, went out to wait on the pitch instead.
47 min: It's a fast start all right! Messi romps clear down the inside-left channel, released by a lovely sliderule pass from Biglia. He's in the area with only Neuer to beat! But he drags a poor shot low and wide right of the target. What an opportunity! He walks back upfield looking sheepish, as well he might.
46 min: A fast start to the half for Argentina. Higuain is found twice down the right in dangerous positions. The first time, he screws a shot through the six-yard box and wide left. Then he's sprung clear down the channel, but free in the box, the flag goes up before he can batter a shot home. That was marginal, so close in fact that Higuain should have had the benefit of the doubt. But Germany escape.
The players are out for the second half. Argentina have made a change, replacing Lavezzi - who had a very decent first half - with Aguero. His first touch is at the restart. Meanwhile, are you fed up with reading words? I wouldn't blame you. Thank the lord for pictures, then, and our superb in-play gallery.
Half-time advertisements. Anyone up for purchasing one of Sepp Maier's collection of Heath Robinson contraptions, designed to help him lug industrial quantities of snuff like a madman?
Meanwhile something from Argentina: Balon Mascota y su Ballet, or The Mascot's Ball and its Dance. What's going on, you ask. Well, it's this: the ball's depressed, and has low blood pressure. The things people used to teach kids.
HALF TIME: Germany 0-0 Argentina
No goals. But you have to wonder how.
45 min +2: WHAT A MISS pt.II!!! Kroos whips a ball to the near post. Six yards out, Howedes batters a header off the right-hand post. He had to score, surely. But no. The rebound leads to a stramash by the post, Romero eventually claiming, but Muller is offside, and Argentina survive!
45 min +1: There will be two added minutes, and Germany win a corner down the right in the first one. Kroos whips a dangerous ball into the mixer. Perez, tracking back, heads over his own bar. There'll be another corner.
45 min: Muller is a fantastic player, despite the occasional nonsense. He wins himself a yard down the right, then curls a stunning cross towards the far post. One inch lower, and perhaps half a yard further back, and Klose is heading home from six yards. But the striker can't connect.
44 min: Space for Muller down the right, not for the first time. The ball's rolled into the middle for Ozil, who twinkletoes around on the edge of the Argentina D. He slips the ball wide to Kroos, whose sidefoot from 20 yards is effectively a backpass into Romero's arms. Where was this Kroos on Tuesday night, Brazilian fans could be forgiven for wondering.
42 min: A bit of nonsense as Schurrle plants his knee in Biglia's trouser arrangement. Foul. Then Muller is hacked to the ground by a therm of air. Hmm. He jumps up and looks for a fight, and it's one that Biglia and Mascherano are only too happy to provide. Just before it spills over, the referee comes across and calms everything down. Bah. No cards, as everyone involved has been playing silly buggers. But this is getting quite testy, as you always knew it would!
40 min: It's been pretty lively, this. And here's Messi, scampering down the right in acres of space. Germany appear to be drugged and asleep. Like Brazil '90 all over again? No, of course not. But what are the Germans doing? They let Messi race into the area and narrow his eyes, before his half-shot, half-cross is hacked off the line by Boateng! Germany escape, but they don't look solid at the back at all.
37 min: Now it's Romero's turn to shine. Germany romp down the other end, through Muller down the left. The ball's slipped inside for Schurrle, who batters a shot towards the top left. It's a brilliant shot by the Chelsea striker, but Romero dives at full length to tip it round for a corner. But there'll be no set piece, because Ozil was faffing around in an offside position, suddenly a factor on account of chasing after the keeper's parry.
36 min: Lavezzi is playing very well here. He meanders down the inside-left channel, sashaying this way and that, before slipping a ball inside for Messi. Germany are scampering back in a panic. Messi shoots from 20 yards, but his effort is blocked out to the left by Schweinsteiger. The corner's claimed by Neuer.
33 min: Howedes is booked for an awful studs-up lunge on Zabaleta, as the wing back looks to break down the right wing. That's a terrible challenge, connecting squarely with Zabaleta's shin, and he could have had no complaints if the referee drew a red card from his pocket. But the German left-back gets away with yellow.
31 min: Poor Kramer. Clattered by Garay earlier on, he's still red-faced and dazed, and can't continue. Groggy, he's helped off in a very confused state, and replaced by Schurrle.
30 min: DISALLOWED GOAL!!! Lavezzi in space down the right. He's in acres! And he curls a delicious ball into the centre, where Higuain steers a clever sidefoot back across the wrong-footed Neuer and into the bottom right! It's a wonderful finish, but he's two yards offside, and the flag rightly goes up. Higuain doesn't see the flag go up for a few seconds, so at least he genuinely knows what it feels like to celebrate a goal in a World Cup final. Even if he also knows the crushing disappointment of it all being taken away.
29 min: Lavezzi goes down the inside-right channel and is upended by Schweinsteiger, who is booked. The free kick is a complete waste of time.
28 min: Schweinsteiger, on the edge of the centre circle, floats a long chip down the inside-left channel for Klose. The striker nearly reaches the dropping ball, but Romero is out quickly to claim. Germany are soon coming back at Argentina, Lahm curling a cross-cum-shot in from the right. Muller misses it with his outstretched leg. Romero, the ball going in the bottom left, palms away. Klose heads towards the loose ball, but he's offside.
25 min: Germany are concentrating on their right flank. Lahm and Muller are seeing an awful lot of the ball. They very nearly prise Argentina open, pushing them back towards the box, but the final ball doesn't quite come off. They've had the majority of the play so far, though Argentina have had the best chance.
23 min: Lahm crosses from the right. There's a little bit of a stramash on the penalty spot. Klose, penalty box predator supreme, takes a little touch to the left, moving the ball away from the melee and towards an area where he can have a shot. He's just about to score number 17, when Zabaleta's toe pops into view, and nudges the ball away from danger. This is a very entertaining match so far, especially in the context of World Cup finals.
20 min: WHAT A MISS! Kroos, in the middle of the park, stops thinking, and heads back towards his own keeper, without realising Higuain is lurking behind his defenders. Higuain's free! The ball takes two bounces. Then, on the edge of the area, Higuain pulls the trigger - and drags a godawful effort miles wide left of goal! Neuer didn't even have to do anything! In the middle of the park, Mascherano holds his head in his hands. Dearie me. Arjen Robben times ten.
18 min: Garay and Kramer contest a high ball down the German right, near the Argentinian box. The former clatters, accidentally, into the latter. Kramer takes a big whack on the jaw. He's down for a couple of minutes, and very red faced. He doesn't look totally with it. But he'll be able to continue, it would seem.
15 min: A free kick for Germany out on the right, Demichelis having come through the back of Klose. The striker takes the free kick himself. It's aimed to the far post, and headed clear by Zabaleta. But the ball's soon flung back in from the right wing. Demichelis, blinded by the sun, heads clumsily over his own bar. The corner, from the right, is hit in Muller's direction, but David Luiz doesn't play for Argentina and the striker, hoping to sidefoot home from the edge of the six-yard box, can't get a sniff as the Argentinians close ranks.
13 min: More right-flank action, this time with Germany on the attack. Lahm curls a high cross into the Argentinian box. It's not far from the head of Klose, who was winding his neck back from 12 yards. Garay just about eased him out, and the ball flies away from danger on the other flank.
11 min: First corner of the match as a Biglia shot from 20 yards is deflected miles to the right of goal by Howedes (ah there one is). The corner's not up to much, though eventually does allow the clearly-up-for-it Zabaleta an opportunity to wang another low cross into the area. Neuer gathers with a yawn.
10 min: Zabaleta down the right in space. He tears towards the box and pulls a cross into the middle. It's behind Lavezzi and Higuain. Neither left back appears to have turned up for duty yet.
9 min: A brilliant turn of pace down the right by Messi, who leaves Hummels looking unhappy, confused and alone after showing him the ball, then buggering off with extreme prejudice. He zips into the box, reaches the byline, and attempts to find Lavezzi with a pullback. The ball's intercepted by Schweinsteiger and hoicked clear. Not much going on in the middle of the pitch, which is just how everyone likes it.
7 min: Muller in more space down the right. He's finding a lot of space here. He whips a curling ball into the six-yard box. Romero gathers, with Ozil and Klose sniffing around. The majority in the Maracana, supporting Argentina it would seem, cheer with relief.
5 min: Muller makes ground down the right, and he isn't far away from sliding a low cross inside to Ozil. But Garay breaks the play up, and guides the ball back to Romero. A really nice open feel to this match. Here's hoping!
4 min: ... clank an idiotic effort straight into the wall. Argentina stream upfield on the break, through Zabaleta down the right. Eventually the ball breaks to Higuain on the right-hand edge of the area. He takes a couple of strides into the area, and shoots from a tight angle. His effort flies across the face of goal, not far wide of the left-hand post. So close to the opener, yes, but not at the end we were expecting there!
3 min: The first chance of the final will go to Germany, because Rojo has just needlessly battered Muller in the back while the two compete for a punt downfield. It'll be a free kick in a central position, 25 yards out. Germany hold a huddle, break out NFL style, and then ...
2 min: A first touch for Kramer, who at least won't have had time to get nervous. He rolls the ball down the right, where Ozil attempts to flick a fancy backheel down the channel to release Klose. Demichelis isn't having a bar of it. "Are World Cup Finals representative of the preceding tournaments?" wonders Niall Mullen. "In my football watching lifetime I'd say 1986, 1990, 1998, 2002, 2006, and 2010 were fair reflections on what had gone before. 1994 was a far better tournament than the final suggests. If my logic holds true what kind of game should we expect tonight?" An over-rated one? Let's hope not!
And we're off! Germany, less poor Khedira, get the ball rolling. The ball's launched forward and lost. Zabaleta tries to make good down the Argentinian right, but he's crowded out of it. All a bit shapeless, but there's less than 30 seconds gone, so there's plenty of time.
What is it with debutants at World Cup finals at the Maracanã? Kramer isn't winning his first cap, but nonetheless it's his first competitive start for Germany! Back in 1950, in the deciding match, Rubén Morán made his debut for Uruguay!
Anyway, the teams are out! And it's time for the national anthems. No frenzied shouting, on account of Brazil not being here. Germany tootle their way through Joseph Haydn's Song of Germany. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Franz II, Erwählter Römischer Kaiser, happy birthday to you. That's what Haydn was getting at, anyway. Magnificent, as is Argentina's, even the bit that sounds like it's about to break into the theme from Van der Valk, but doesn't.
But we've been here before. How about a couple of alternative songs of national significance? For Germany: Metal on Metal by Kraftwerk, which would also make perfect incidental music for the Germans six-minute evisceration of Brazil, on account of it being roughly the correct length, and sounding like someone being run over. For Argentina: the soundtrack to Last Tango in Paris, by Argentinian jazz legend Gato Barbieri. Track four swings like a mother.
Dramatic late scenes! It's not quite up there with the Ronaldo business of 1998, but Germany have had to withdraw poor Sami Khedira, who has developed a calf problem. In his place, Christoph Kramer of Borussia Moenchengladbach.
First Fred, then Luiz Felipe Scolari ... it seems nobody can avoid the fallout of Brazil's difficult World Cup. "This pic represent our sadness," writes Rio resident Frederico Dalton. "I took this picture this morning at the Copacabana Beach. It shows Fuleco, this World Cup's mascot, which never really caught on, being carried by security guards at the Fifa souvenir store. My friends joke that Fuleco was actually an extra terrestrial and was eventually found by the Men in Black." Sorry scenes indeed, Frederico. But so unfair! The Spanish never Naranjito like this back in 82.
The kits. It'll be a repeat of the 1990 final. Germany are playing in their famous and beautiful first-choice white, albeit with an unnecessary flash across the nipples.
No classically gorgeous white-and-sky-blue stripes for Argentina, who will sport their dark blue change strip. It doesn't matter; they still look like Argentina, and it's one of the great away shirts.
It's an aesthetic delight, all of this. And imagine handing one of those pennants over, shaking hands just before leading your country into a World Cup final! It's every young football fan's recurring dream. Plenty of us adults still have them, too.
They've already staged the closing ceremony, by the way. Official Fifa artist Shakira got a captive audience dancing with a rendition of her worldwide smash Sepp's Gonna Sexx Ya Up. OK, I'll be honest with you, I didn't see the ceremony. But there was one. Why don't they stage it after the match? Because everyone will leave, that's why. It does make you wonder why they bother in the first place.
The full, surprise-free teamsheets
Both teams name unchanged XIs. Miroslav Klose, the World Cup's leading goalscorer, leads the German line ahead of the equally in-form Andre Schurrle. Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero are both fit for the bench, but Sabella is taking no risks, you know how he rolls.
Germany: Neuer, Lahm, Boateng, Hummels, Howedes, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Muller, Kroos, Ozil, Klose.
Subs: Zieler, Grosskreutz, Ginter, Schurrle, Podolski, Draxler, Durm, Mertesacker, Gotze, Kramer, Weidenfeller.
Argentina: Romero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Garay, Rojo, Biglia, Mascherano, Perez, Higuain, Messi, Lavezzi.
Subs: Orion, Campagnaro, Gago, Di Maria, Rodriguez, Augusto Fernandez, Federico Fernandez, Palacio, Alvarez, Aguero, Basanta, Andujar.
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Italy)
The starting XIs are in!
Germany: Neuer, Howedes, Hummels, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Klose, Muller, Lahm, Kroos, Boateng.
Argentina: Romero, Garay, Zabaleta, Biglia, Perez, Higuain, Messi, Mascherano, Demichelis, Rojo, Lavezzi.