RIO DE JANEIRO — Mario Goetze produced the piece of individual skill that Lionel Messi couldn’t muster.
With two quick, deft touches, Goetze ended Germany’s 24-year wait for another World Cup title with an extra-time winner against Argentina yesterday, denying Messi the one title he needs to forever take his place among soccer’s greats.
It was a moment of brilliance that gave Germany a 1-0 victory in a tight and tense final.
Goetze, who wasn’t born when West Germany beat Argentina in the 1990 final, controlled a cross with his chest in the 113th minute and, in one fluid motion, volleyed the ball past goalkeeper Sergio Romero and inside the far post from 5 yards out.
It delivered Germany its fourth World Cup title, equal to Italy on the list of all-time champions and behind only Brazil, which has five.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Goetze said. “I don’t know how to describe it.”
At the final whistle, German players fell into a pile in a midfield celebration. Messi walked past them with his hands on his hips — still in the shadow of his compatriot Diego Maradona, who led his country to the 1986 title.
Goetze, 22, went in as a substitute for Miroslav Klose near the end of regulation time, and his fresh legs made the difference.
Andre Schuerrle broke down the left flank, sending his cross into the penalty area, and Goetze did the rest with a clinical finish. The goal echoed that of Andres Iniesta four years ago, when the Spain midfielder scored in similar fashion but from the other side of the field in a 1-0 extra-time win over the Netherlands.
It went entirely to script, said German coach Joachim Loew.
“I said to Mario Goetze, ‘OK, show to the world that you’re better than Messi and you can decide the World Cup. You have all the possibilities to do that,’ ” Loew said. “I had a good feeling with him.”
Germany became the first European team to win a World Cup in the Americas, and the victory ends a string of near misses since the Germans won their last major title at the 1996 European championship. The team lost the 2002 World Cup final to Brazil and the Euro 2008 final to Spain, and was eliminated in the Cup semifinals in both 2006 and 2010.
Argentina had not been back in the final since that 1990 loss and has now lost to Germany in the past three World Cups.
“This was our chance and … we couldn’t do it,” Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano said. “We have to lift our heads and suffer the pain.”
It is Germany’s first World Cup title as a unified nation, having won as West Germany in 1954, 1974 and 1990.
The Germans faced Argentina in both the 1986 and 1990 finals, during Maradona’s heyday. This time, they were up against Messi, a four-time world player of the year who has set a slew of scoring records in leading Barcelona to every major club title and is widely considered the best player since Maradona.
But in the biggest game of his career, Messi came up short.
He had one good chance to score when he was sent free in the penalty area just after the halftime break, but he sent his shot wide. It was a difficult angle, but still the type of chance Messi so often converts.
Messi threatened intermittently throughout the game but was effectively smothered by the German defense. Finally, his free kick in the 120th minute went well high of the goal.
Messi scored four goals in the group stage but none in the knockout rounds.
Until Goetze’s winning goal, the game was more notable for top-class defending than creative attacking, but both teams had their share of chances.
Gonzalo Higuain fired wide when gifted a chance in a one-on-one with German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, and later his goal was disallowed for offside.
German defender Benedikt Hoewedes hit the post just before halftime with a header.
“I’m very proud of the team. They played a great game against a great team,” Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella said. “I salute the players; they made the country proud.”
Germany 1, Argentina 0, OT
EXTRA TIME—1, Germany, Mario Goetze 2, 113th minute.
Shots—Germany 10, Argentina 10. Shots On Goal—Germany 7, Argentina 2. Yellow Cards—Germany, Bastian Schweinsteiger, 29th; Benedikt Hoewedes, 34th. Argentina, Javier Mascherano, 64th; Sergio Aguero, 65th. Offsides—Germany 3, Argentina 2. Fouls—Germany 20, Argentina 16. Corner Kicks—Germany 5, Argentina 3. A—74,738.