Substitute Mario Goetze gave Germany a fourth World Cup with a 113th minute goal that was befitting the kind of football this tournament has produced.
It also took the 20th World Cup’s goal tally to 171, equalling the highest-ever tally ever to be recorded in the competition — in France 1998.
Goetze’s goal was the first by a substitute in a World Cup final since Rudi Voeller’s for West Germany in 1986.
Germany's forward Mario Goetze scores. AFP
The goal showed why Germany coach Joaquim Loew said on Saturday the future was bright for the first European team to win a World Cup in South America.
A superb ball from Andre Schuerrle, 24, was chested, controlled and placed past Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero by a man who is 22.
At 6.40pm local time, the Germans ended a 24-year wait by getting Goetze into a scrum. The Argentines slumped to the ground.
A lively regulation time amazingly ended with no shot on target for Argentina and only three for Germany. The final touch of inspiration eluded both teams.
With Gonzalo Higuain it definitely did. Toni Kroos — he was a shadow of the midfield marshal Brazil faced in the semi-final — headed a ball back to goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the 20th minute, not noticing Higuain lurking.
With a clear look on goal, Higuain drove wide. When he did hit it on target, steered Ezequiel Lavezzi’s ball in, Higuain was marginally off-side.
Argentina were more lively in the second half which began with Lionel Messi driving just wide but ended on even terms. Once in each half, Messi was denied by Jerome Boateng with tackles that were game-changers.
Finally, a defender put up a show that was worthy of the occasion.
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Messi’s last chance to keep Argentina in the game was a free-kick that he shot over. It summed up the kind of night he had.
Through the day chagrined Brazilians had watched Argentina fans bouncing into the Maracana.
Security guards at metro stations, a huge posse of policepersons and others heard them chorus ‘Brasil, decime qué se siente, tener en casa tu papa’, a song that possibly needs no translation worldwide and ends with the assertion that Maradona is better than Pele.
It ended with Brazilians lustily cheering the team that spanked them so hard that it will hurt for a long, long time. Brazil’s worst nightmare — that of Argentina winning a World Cup in their backyard — did not come true and that sure called for celebration.
Argentina's Lionel Messi shoots as Germany's Benedikt Hoewedes tries to block. AP
The now four-time champions became the first European team to win the World Cup on Latin American soil, capping a terrifically entertaining tournament which is being rated by many as the best in World Cup history.
For a 32-day showcase of football at its best, the winning goal was beautifully appropriate. Mario Goetze controlled the ball with his chest and then volleyed it into the Argentine goal, making difficult skills look so simple. Scored in the 113th minute, the mortal blow left Argentina too little time to recover.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, sitting in the VIP section, waved a clenched fist as Goetze celebrated. When referee Nicola Rizzoli blew the final whistle a few minutes later, Vladimir Putin reached across and shook Merkel's hand. The Russian president's country hosts the next World Cup in 2018.
Another delighted German in the crowd was International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who'll be keeping a close eye on Brazil's next big organisational challenge: readying Rio de Janeiro for the Summer Games in 2016.
Sepp Blatter, president of World Cup organizer FIFA, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff embraced as Germany's players went crazy with joy and Argentina's wept.
One of the ironies of this World Cup is that even though the tournament will be remembered as a resounding success, it was a headache for Rousseff and Blatter to the end.
As they handed over the 18-carat gold trophy to Germany captain Philipp Lahm, the Maracana Stadium echoed with an insulting chant aimed at the Brazilian president. There were resounding boos, too, when she was shown shaking the hand of losing coach Alejandro Sabella.
Such protests were also heard at other stadiums during the tournament, demonstrating how the party atmosphere was a thin veneer for grave public misgivings about $13 billion of spending on cup preparations.
As sunset-pink clouds made way for night, and the teams treated the watching world to 30 minutes of extra time because they were still scoreless after 90 minutes, the iconic Maracana bathed in light looked like a spaceship landed between the hills, high-rises and favelas of Rio.
The 74,738 fans had a ball, especially Germans and Brazilians who didn't want Argentina, their neighbor and fiercest football rival, to win a third world title.
They drowned out the Argentine fans' tireless, jaunty singing with piercing whistles and shouted "Ole!" when Germany players' had the ball, weaving their game of intricate passing. Fireworks ripped the skies to celebrate Germany's first World Cup title as a unified nation, having won as West Germany in 1954, 1974 and 1990.
In once-divided Berlin, a monster crowd said by authorities to be a quarter-million strong crammed in front of giant TV screens near the German capital's famous Brandenburg Gate.
Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Argentina's forward Gonzalo Higuain compete for the ball during the final. AFP
"At some point we'll stop celebrating but we'll still wake up with a smile," said Germany's Manuel Neuer, voted the tournament's best goalkeeper.
The biggest game in football attracted a good sprinkling of celebrities. David Beckham hugged Pele. Supermodel Gisele Bundchen snuggled with her husband, NFL star Tom Brady. Rolling Stones front-man Mick Jagger was there, too.
Even with tiring legs as they played into extra time, the two exquisitely matched teams gave and sought no quarter.
Germany brought brawn, its accurate passing and quick movement and tireless determination to attack and attack again. Argentina responded with bruising defense and craftiness and could have won had its players not wasted chances.
Argentina's forward Rodrigo Palacio (C) tries to score past Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. AFP
The inability of Lionel Messi, Argentina's four-time world player of the year, to stave off this defeat will renew debate about where he fits in football pantheons of greats.
Messi looked flabbergasted when he shot wide of Neuer's goal early in the second half, wasting a chance that had it gone in would have strengthened arguments that he is equal to Diego Maradona, who led Argentina to its last win in 1986.
For the highest stakes in football, players bruised body and soul. German midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger was carrying a cut under his right eye as he walked up with his teammates to collect the trophy.
Midfielder Christoph Kramer played on for 14 minutes with a suspected concussion before he was replaced by Andre Schuerrle. It was Schuerrle who provided the cross that Goetze controlled so magically.
Kramer's head injury was the last in a series at this World Cup that will put pressure on football to better protect players from concussion.(AP)