RIO DE JANEIRO – Before replacing starting striker Miroslav Klose in the 88th minute of a tense and scoreless World Cup final against Argentina, Germany coach Joachim Loew gave instructions to the substitute. But this wasn't your ordinary marching orders of late-game tactics.
"I said to Mario Goetze, 'OK, show to the world that you're better than [Lionel] Messi, show that you can decide the World Cup,' " Loew recalled.
Show you're better than Messi? Is that all?
Loew's words were half-dare, half-inspirational speech. And, luckily for the Germans, Goetze took every syllable to heart.
The forward from Bayern Munich did what Messi couldn't do – score the winning goal – as he showed off his world-class skill to the millions watching around the globe to secure Germany's fourth World Cup title Sunday night at Maracana Stadium.
Running down the middle of the field, Goetze stopped at the left edge of the 6-yard box, controlled Andre Schurrle's deft cross with his chest, then let the ball drop to his left foot and blasted it past goalkeeper Sergio Romero from the sharpest of angles into the side netting. The 113th-minute strike was all Germany needed in a 1-0 extra-time victory.
For Goetze, the moment was "a dream come true." For Loew, it was just one more stroke of genius.
"Mario Goetze is a miracle boy, a boy wonder who can play any position," Loew said. "He has superior technical quality. I knew he could be decisive in the match. It was a great decider today."
"I'm more than happy," Goetze said. "And I'm happy with the team and what happened here in Brazil. I guess it's more or less indescribable how I feel. It is absolutely sensational."
Goetze's season with his club team Bayern Munich was anything but. After a nearly $50 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund, the 22-year-old battled inconsistency in his first season with the German Bundesliga champions, scoring 15 goals in all competitions.
At the World Cup, Goetze started Germany's first two group games, scoring in a 2-2 draw with Ghana, then found himself on the bench in three of the next four matches, including the previous two knockout-round victories over France and Brazil, as Loew opted to start the 36-year-old Klose.
Goetze credited his support group – girlfriend, family and friends – for continuing to "believe in me" when it seemed Loew didn't.
"I kept on training with the team," Goetze said during his news conference to accept the Man of the Match award. "Every single player deserves to be named here. I think we deserved the [World Cup] trophy."
Loew said he had a hunch Goetze would perform under the most intense pressure in the world's biggest soccer game.
"I had a good feeling about him," Loew said. "And the plan for both teams was similar in a sense that both teams wanted to win the game in regular time. We both wanted to decide the match."
Surprisingly, Mario Goetze decided it, not Lionel Messi.
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