For almost two hours, it seemed that Germany and Argentina would have to settle the World Cup final with penalty kicks.
But then, almost out of nowhere, backup forward Mario Gotze settled a cross and beat Sergio Romero far post -- the first goal allowed by Argentina in some seven hours of game time -- to lift Germany to its fourth World Cup title.
The match was even throughout, with Argentina earning some golden opportunites in the first half, but they were unable to convert.
Gonzalo Higuain had the two best chances for Argentina. His first, brought on by a gaffe in the German defense, left him one-on-one with the keeper, but his shot was well wide. Later he buried a goal into the net, but he was needlessly offsides.
The teams continued the scoreless play throughout the second half and for the majority of extra time. It was pretty flat, to be honest, until Gotze's goal, which came from a good ball across sent in. Frankly, it seemed no different than any of the other balls sent in the box Sunday. Gotze's finish was just better, and that was the difference.
It was another flat effort from international superstar Lionel Messi, who had a few moments of brilliance but failed to find the goal for the fourth straight game after scoring four times in the group stage. It was difficult, of course, especially with German defenders surrounding him at all times. He had little help up front -- even though Higuain had chances -- and the absence of Angel Di Maria certainly didn't help.
So in the end, Messi couldn't do it all for Argentina, and Germany had just enough.
FINAL: Argentina 0 - Germany 1 (Goetze 113')
120'+ -- No good. Messi's shot well high. That should do it.
120' -- Messi fouled. Perhaps one last chance for Argentina, Messi.
118' -- Furious pace at this point. Messi tries a header from the top of the box that goes just over the crossbar.
113' -- Hey, whoa, THERE IT IS. Mario Gotze, a sub, finishes a one-touch off his chest to win the World Cup. (Probably.)
109' -- Schweinsteiger gets smacked in the face on a header and he's bleeding from just below his eye.
109' -- This is pretty boring.
108' -- Chance for Germany on a free kick, but it's blocked.
105' -- End of the first period. Early chances, but little else.
103' -- Everyone seems really tired. The game is sloppy, with fouls picking up and bad touches abound.
97' -- Palacio has a great chance, but his chip carries over Neuer but goes well wide. Bad first touch by Palacio, who had space.
92' -- Messi tries one but it slides across in front of goal. Not too dangerous.
91' -- Back at it. Terrific chance out of hand for Germany, but a great save by Romero keeps it scoreless.
Full time: So there it is. No score, and we're headed to two fifteen minute halves to decide the World Cup. If we're still tied we'll move to PKs.
90'+ -- Couple late, exciting chances, but nothing going near goal. We're heading to extra time, folks.
88' -- Klose, the all-time leading World Cup goal-scorer, coming off for Germany for the last time.
82' -- Great chance for Kroos, but the shot is well wide. Germany really starting to pile up chances.
80' -- Several chances for Germany, but they can't get anything on goal and the cross sails out of bounds.
78' -- Higuain off. He should have two goals.
75' -- Messi works out some clever moves and gets a shot off his left foot, but not enough bend to find the goal.
71' -- Oh, great chance for Germany, but they make a mess of it and it rolls to Romero.
70' -- A lot of sloppy play both ways. For instance, Benedikt Howedes just sent a cross to no one.
64' -- Argentina loses it, and Mascherano whacks Klose, earning a yellow card.
62' -- Play has flattened out considerably. A few chances for Germany, but nothing too dangerous.
57' -- That was an...odd call. Higuain and Neuer collide, Higuain called for a foul as Neuer punches it clear. That was not a call.
53' -- It has been kind of slow. Here's Christ the Redeemer.
Just a phenomenal shot pic.twitter.com/8oJIktf9If— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) July 13, 2014
47' -- Argentina just keeps missing. This time it's Messi who sees his shot roll wide.
46' -- Sergio Aguera on for Argentina as the second half is underway.
Halftime: Quite an exciting half, as both sides have had numerous chances. Pretty even, so far, too. But Higuain may be kicking himself after two golden scoring opportunities were wasted.
45'+ -- Oh wow. Germany's header rings the post, somehow staying out of net just before half.
43' -- Germany gets a good chance, but the shot has little pace.
40' -- Boy another great chance for Argentina as Messi finds his way in front of net, but Boateng saves the day by clearing it off the line seconds before it was knocked into goal.
37' -- Schurrle gets a chance, but Romero makes a nice save.
36' -- Messi nearly threads a perfect ball through that would have been a sure goal, but it's cleared for a corner. Argentina has really been in control after a strong German start.
31' -- Kramer now being helped off the field. He does not look...there. That looks really bad. Schurrle comes on.
30' -- Poor, poor, poor Higuain. He puts this one away, but he was offsides, somewhat pointlessly. Good call.
28' -- Good save from Romero, even though Mueller was offsides.
21' -- Oh. Oh no. Higuain literally all alone after a terrible Germany turnover, but his shot is not close. What a great chance, wasted.
18' -- Oh dear. Kramer just got mashed in the face with a shoulder. He's down receiving attention -- seems a bit woozy.
13' -- Good cross in by Germany, but Klose just can't get his head to it.
10' -- Another good chance for Argentina, but the ground cross can't find a foot. But the Argentine side is starting to assert itself.
9' -- Messi finally gets a touch and takes it deep into Germany territory, but his cut-back pass in the box is cleared.
7' -- Lots of early possession for Germany -- they seem, at least for now, to be the side that will have the majority of chances.
4' -- Klose's free kick is stuffed and Argentina counters well. Higuain's shot goes wide, but it was fairly close and beat Neuer.
3' -- Couple early chances for Germany, and Mueller earns an early free kick above the box.
1' -- Okay, here we go. IT'S HAPPENING.
2:59 p.m. ET: Oh, hey, lineup change. Khedira out, Christoph Kramer in. That could prove significant.
2:55 p.m. ET: Players now coming onto the field. Anthems, and we'll be underway.
2:45 p.m. ET: Okay, good news for either Germany or Argentina, as Spain has given the trophy back to be awarded to Sunday's winner. That was nice of them.
2:35 p.m. ET: Here's some past soccer royalty. Well, David Beckham and Pele, at least. I don't know that Kaka is necessarily royalty, but he's in the picture, too.
2:30 p.m. ET: We're about 30 minutes from kickoff, which gives you plenty of time to read my esteemed colleague Jeff Borzello's tactical preview. Lots of good stuff in there.
2:15 p.m. ET: Here's a bit of history for ya: If Germany beats Argentina, it will be the third straight time Germany has eliminated Argentina. That has not happened before. The U.S. dodged this same fate when it beat Ghana, who had consecutively eliminated the Americans in '06 and 2010, in its opener.
Moreover, Argentina hasn't lost a World Cup game at all to any other nation since 2002.
2:05 p.m. ET: Here's the purported distinguished guest list for the game that you've seen circulating on Twitter. All the big names are on it: LeBron, Gisele Bundchen, Wyclef Jean.
The list of people invited by FIFA to watch the World Cup Final in Maracana. Interesting names on it. pic.twitter.com/d1HNNEFaWI— Fernando R. Vila (@nandorvila) July 13, 2014
2 p.m. ET: And the elder statesman, Miroslov Klose, will again start for the Germans. He has 16 career World Cup goals. That's the most by any one player in history.
For Argentina, Angel Di Maria will again start on the bench, just as he did in Wednesday's semifinal.
Here are both lineups in full.
Argentina: Romero, Garay, Zabaleta, Biglia, Perez, Higuain, Messi, Mascherano, Demichelis, Rojo, Lavezzi
Germany: Neuer, Howedes, Hummels, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Klose, Muller, Lahm, Kroos, Boateng
1:50 p.m. ET: Well we're almost there, folks. See, Germany has arrived for the World Cup final.
Match Preview: For the casual observer, it really could not have worked out any better. The World Cup final Sunday in Brazil will pit the tournament's best team against the world's best player.
Germany, led by a potent offensive attack that has proven to be dominant and even devastating at times, will face off against Lionel Messi and Argentina.
But while all eyes will be on Messi, Argentina also boasts two talented forwards in Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero. The latter two have picked up the scoring slack in the knockout stage where Messi has been shut out after four group stage goals. Besides that, the Argentina defense has been surprisingly dominant, as they haven't allowed a goal since the group stage.
It will be a tall order, however, to keep the Germans out of the net. They scored seven times against Brazil and looked completely capable of putting up video game numbers against any side in the tournament. Thomas Muller and the ageless Miroslav Klose -- who now holds the record for most World Cup goals in history -- have been difficult to contain.
For Klose, Sunday will be a time for he and his countrymen to finally hoist the cup after some near-misses. Klose has been on the German side for the past three tournaments, which include to third place finishes and a runner-up finish in 2002.
There's also a historical subtext regarding these two nations, who twice played for a World Cup title. First, in 1986, Diego Maradona and Argentina defeated West Germany. But four years later the result was reversed. Germany has won the last two matchups in World Cup play between the two sides, most recently a 4-0 beating in the 2010 quarterfinals.
But none of the historical aspects really come into play, of course. A new chapter will be written tomorrow; but to whom will it belong?