2014: A substitute steals the show

Mario Gotze, a second-half substitute in the final, was clinical in converting a half-chance in the 113th minute, securing Germany its fourth world title.

Winning goal: Germany’s Mario Goetze beats Argentina’s goalkeeper Sergio Romero to seal his side’s victory in the final.   -  AP

It was to be a World Cup of South American flair, a World Cup for Lionel Messi to legitimately claim his place in football’s pantheon of greats. The world looked to conspire to fulfil the Barcelona star’s date with destiny as a disjointed Argentina rumbled through the league and knock-out rounds, hardly ever playing inspiring football.

But La Albiceleste, and Messi, were left to regret a slew of missed opportunities as he, Gonzalo Higuain and Rodrigo Palacio were guilty of fluffing chances that looked routine. Mario Gotze, a second-half substitute in the final, was clinical in converting a half-chance in the 113th minute, securing Germany its fourth world title.

Germany, the sixth youngest team in the tournament (average age of 26 years and 114 days), benefitted from its youth development programme, which was revamped following the team’s disastrous EURO 2000 campaign. Seven of the 11 players in the starting line-up came through the Bundesliga clubs’ elite academies, which was made compulsory by the DFB (German Football Federation) for the top 18 clubs in 2001-02.

Host: Brazil

Teams: 32

Matches: 64

Goals: 171

Attendance: 34,29,873

Winner: Germany

Golden Boot: James Rodríguez (COL) — 6 goals

Best Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer (GER)

Best Player: Lionel Messi (ARG)

Die Nationalmannschaft victory had further gloss in its 7-1 humiliation of host Brazil in the semifinals. Brazil was left in a state of mourning as the national team conceded 10 goals (3-0 loss to Holland in the third-place playoffs) in its last two games, to end the tournament with the worst defensive record for a host.

The all-conquering Spanish team, in South America to defend its world title, too, had a forgetful outing as it exited from the group stage, losing its two opening games.

The tournament, however, was blessed with moments of individual brilliance and also a penchant among teams to play a more fluid, aggressive game. There were wonder strikes from Robin van Persie (against Spain) and James Rodriguez (against Uruguay) and the 20th Mundial accounted for 171 goals, equalling the record set in France 1998.

  Dugout videos