STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
That's the sound of celebration on a Berlin street last night after Germany celebrated its 1-0 win over Argentina. The World Cup final yesterday in Brazil was bloody, physical, a defensive struggle. And as the game was played, there was political violence outside the stadium. We'll hear about that in a moment. But let's talk about the game first with NPR's Tom Goldman. Hi, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello, Steve.
INSKEEP: So based on the emptiness of the streets in many cities, a lot of people were watching the game yesterday. But just for those who didn't, what happened?
GOLDMAN: You know, Steve, this is why you can't take your eyes off a soccer match at this level. We were deep into extra time. It was a scoreless tie. In fact, just about seven minutes away from a dreaded penalty kick shootout. And then a German player made a run with the ball down the left side of the field. He lofted a perfect crossing pass to forward Mario Gotze - remember that name - and Gotze made this beautiful play. He controlled the ball with the chest, and before the ball hit the ground, he drove it with his left foot into the Argentine goal.
GOLDMAN: That was the ballgame. And afterwards, German coach Joachim Low was asked what he said to Gotze between the extra time periods. You could see the two talking. And here's what the coach said through a translator.
JOACHIM LOW: (Through translator) Show to the world that you're better than Messi, and that you can decide the World Cup. You have all the possibilities to do just that. And that's what I told him. I had a good feeling with him.
GOLDMAN: And so 22-year-old Mario Gotze became an instant World Cup hero. He saved the tournament from having the championship decided by penalty kicks which really wouldn't have been fair.
INSKEEP: Now Tom, the German coach said show to the world you're better than Messi, of course he's referring to an Argentine superstar. Did he show that?
GOLDMAN: You know, Lionel Messi did better than his nearest competitors for best player in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal didn't make it out of the group stage. And Brazil's Neymar of course went down in the quarterfinals with that broken bone in his back. So Messi survived the longest. But, you know, he was always going to be measured by winning a World Cup, and he didn't. He won the Golden Ball award as the tournament's best player, but that choice was questioned by some because really his last two games he was kind of invisible.
INSKEEP: So now the Germans had not won a World Cup in more than two decades even though they'd been a soccer power for a long time. What did they change in order to get over the hump here?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, you know, they've been getting closer, Steve. They lost in the 2002 World Cup final. They lost in the semis in the last two World Cups. But what was really significant happened around the year 2000. Germany got really serious about developing its football the right way - putting money into development and training and organizing the national system into something really productive. They created the right environment to nurture the best players, the guys we saw who won the title yesterday.
INSKEEP: You're saying a group of people who play together, if they have a superstar who's a little bit off it's not going to sink the team the way that Brazil was sunk a few days ago?
GOLDMAN: Well, yeah, you know, I mean, in the way Germany has been playing, in the way Germany embarrassed the Brazilians in that 7-1 defeat in the semi-finals, you know, there were critics in this country who said that the Germans were playing like Brazil used to with great passing and organization on offense and defense, well-conceived and executed attacks. And those critics say Brazil has to revamp its soccer system like Germany did with better training, better organization, more money to help with that effort.
INSKEEP: Tom Goldman, I just want to mention, you know, watching this event on TV has felt a little bit like an adventure to me. You're watching the sporting event but it's in another hemisphere. It just seemed kind of exciting just to turn it on. But I'm wondering what it felt like to be there these last few weeks.
GOLDMAN: Well, it was just as exciting, although it really had nothing to do with hemispheres. It had to do with great soccer - exciting games, attacking football. Goalscoring was off the charts early on in the group stage in the first round. The goals per game average was the second highest amount since the 1950s. So this World Cup certainly held people's attention, although even yesterday, Steve, there were reminders of the strife in the political protest that's accompanied this World Cup from the start. Every time the Brazilian president was shown up on the jumbo screen at the stadium, and she was one of a number of political leaders there, there were jeers and obscene chants from some of the crowd.
INSKEEP: Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: Steve, it's my pleasure.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman who's been covering the World Cup won by Germany yesterday.
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