RIO DE JANEIRO — Lionel Messi’s final act in this World Cup was lifting a free kick high over the bar, wasting Argentina’s last chance to equalize in the final against Germany.
It was far from a fitting finish for the four-time world player of the year.
This was supposed to be Messi’s World Cup, just as the 1986 tournament belonged to another Argentine great, Diego Maradona. But after carrying his team through the group stage with four goals, Messi seemed to run out of steam.
In the final, he created chances but, like the rest of the team, lacked the finishing touch to turn the game for Argentina.
“I’m hurt for losing the way we did. We were close to penalties,” Messi said. “I think we deserved a little better; we had chances.”
Messi was a picture of disappointment after the 1-0 loss as he collected the Golden Ball trophy as the tournament’s best player.
“At this moment, I don’t care at all about that prize,” Messi said. “Only lifting the (championship) trophy matters,”
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said he thought Messi deserved the best-player award “because he played an extraordinary role. He was the fundamental factor in the team.”
Messi has won everything there is to win with his club team, Barcelona, but many critics say he needs a World Cup title to be considered among soccer’s greats.
Klose’s Cup one for history
If Miroslav Klose does retire now, it will be with a couple of very big achievements.
The German striker won the World Cup, just days after becoming the tournament’s career leader in goals.
With those two prizes, Klose wasn’t all that bothered by being subbed out late in yesterday’s game. He came off for Mario Goetze, who scored the winning goal in extra time.
“This was icing on the cake,” said Klose, 36, a veteran of four World Cups.
But coach Joachim Loew warned everyone not to jump to conclusions about Klose’s retirement,
“Perhaps he will also be playing in four years’ time,” Loew said. “Everything is possible with him.”
A head injury to Germany midfielder Christoph Kramer stoked concerns about the way soccer deals with concussions.
It was the latest in a series of head injuries at the World Cup that raised questions about the sideline medical checks.
Kramer continued playing for 14 minutes in the first half after taking a heavy blow to the face in a collision with Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay. He finally was replaced in the 31st minute after he slumped to the ground.
The German soccer federation said that Kramer had a suspected concussion but didn’t give any details.
“I can’t remember very much, but it doesn’t matter now,” he said after the game.
There were worrying head injuries earlier in the tournament. Argentina’s Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta played on in their team’s semifinal against the Netherlands after hard knocks to the head. Mascherano appeared to be completely disoriented and fell to the ground after a clash of heads with a Dutch player. Both Mascherano and Zabaleta started in the final.
Questions about FIFA’s concussion protocol were initially raised in the group stage when Uruguay defender Alvaro Pereira refused to leave the field after being hit in the head by an England opponent’s knee.
Pereira later said the blow knocked him out and “was like the lights went out,” yet he was allowed to come back onto the field and continue playing.