RIO DE JANEIRO - Mario Goetze scored a superb extra-time winner as Germany beat Argentina 1-0 to become the first European team to win a World Cup held in South America.
Bayern Munich star Goetze struck in the 113th minute of a gripping battle at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium as Argentina superstar Lionel Messi's hopes of emulating Diego Maradona ended in defeat.
Germany have now won four World Cups, putting the European powerhouses just one behind Brazil's record tally of five.
"It's unbelievable what we have achieved. Whether we have the best individual player doesn't matter at all, you just need to have the best team," said delighted Germany captain Philipp Lahm.
German coach Joachim Loew revealed he had encouraged Goetze to eclipse Argentina star Messi when he came on as an 88th minute substitute.
"I told Mario Goetze, 'go out and show the world you are better than Messi," he said.
Germany's win sparked an explosion of joy in their homeland and in host nation Brazil, which had been dreading the prospect of South American rivals Argentina winning the title on its territory.
Yesterday's dramatic finale came after a month-long footballing carnival widely regarded as one of the best World Cups ever.
Goetze's winner equalled the record tally for goals at a 32-team World Cup. The 171 goals from 64 games equalled the number set in France in 1998.
Fittingly, Goetze's strike was another memorable effort in a tournament brimming with spectacular individual goals.
A gripping final before 74,738 spectators, which included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, looked headed for penalties after both sides had failed to break through stubborn defending.
But with just seven minutes of extra-time remaining, Andre Schuerrle burst down the left flank and crossed for Goetze.
The 22-year-old took the ball on his chest and then volleyed past Sergio Romero to spark delirium among the Germans.
With seconds remaining Messi had the chance to conjure an equaliser, but the free kick sailed high over the bar and Germany had won.
It was a bitterly disappointing end to the World Cup for Messi, who was named player of the tournament despite the loss.