At a World Cup where substitutes have made more impact than ever, it was fitting that Mario Goetze came off the bench to win it, and another replacement supplied the inch-perfect cross.
Goetze’s extra-time goal to beat Argentina and win the cup was the 32nd scored by a substitute in Brazil.
The previous best, 23 at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, is not even close.
Coming on in the 88th minute to replace Miroslav Klose, Goetze’s two shots on target matched teammate Toni Kroos who played the full two hours. It was also as many as Argentina managed all night.
Even the cross for Goetze’s beautifully balanced winning strike came from another substitute, Andre Shuerrle.
“I said from the start that 14 players have to be on the alert, that they have to be ready at all time,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
Teams who used their squads well – like the third-place Netherlands and quarterfinalist Belgium – got their rewards with strong finishes and crucial late goals.
Loew had to call on 15 fully alert players on Sunday.
After midfielder Sami Khedira injured his calf in the warm-up, Christoph Kramer had a matter of minutes to prepare himself for a rare start.
Then Shuerrle was called on unexpectedly early when Kramer was unable to continue in the 31st minute with an apparent concussion from a collision with an Argentina defender’s shoulder.
Still, Goetze’s arrival for the 36-year-old Klose was all tactical by Loew after two earlier switches for injury
“With these temperatures, in this climate, you cannot play with the same 11 the entire match,” said the coach, though the 23-degree (73F) temperature at kickoff was one of the cooler tests Germany had in Brazil.
“Tonight you could see at the end that Argentina was getting more and more tired and that we have players like Mueller and Schuerrle, who can make searing runs,” Loew said.
Still, Loew’s use of 18 of his 23-man squad across seven World Cup matches is almost conservative compared to Louis van Gaal and the Netherlands.
Van Gaal ensured he gave playing time to all 23 players by sending on goalkeeper Michael Vorm for the closing minutes of a 3-0 win over Brazil in the third-place playoff on Saturday.
An earlier Dutch goalie replacement entered World Cup lore as a match-winning substitute by stopping goals not scoring them.
Tim Krul played only a couple of minutes of extra-time in a 0-0 quarterfinal draw against Costa Rica but that got him into the penalty shootout, and his two spot-kick saves were decisive.
Van Gaal also had the magic touch in the Round of 16, sending on Klaas Jan Huntelaar for captain robin van Persie when trailing 1-0 late against Mexico. Huntelaar then set up Wesley Sneijder for the equalizer and scored continued…