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.
“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 used all 23 players by sending on goalkeeper Michael Vorm for the closing minutes of a 3-0 playoff win over Brazil.