Mario Goetze produced the piece of individual skill that Lionel Messi couldn't muster.
With two quick, deft touches, Goetze ended Germany's 24-year wait for another World Cup title with an extra-time winner against Argentina on Sunday -- denying Messi the one title he needs to forever take his place among the game's all-time greats.
It was the moment of brilliance that ensured Germany's 1-0 victory in a tight and tense final in Rio de Janeiro.
Goetze, who wasn't born when West Germany beat Argentina in the 1990 final, controlled a cross with his chest in the 113th minute and in one fluid motion volleyed the ball past goalkeeper Sergio Romero and inside the far post from 5 yards out.
It delivered Germany its fourth World Cup title, tied for second with Italy on the list of all-time champions and just behind Brazil's five.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. I don't know how to describe it. You just shoot that goal in, you don't really know what's happening," Goetze said. "And then at the end of the match, having a party with the team, the whole country ... it is for us a dream come true."
At the final whistle, Germany players fell into a pile in a midpitch celebration. Messi walked past them with his hands on his hips -- still in the shadow of his compatriot Diego Maradona, who led his country to the 1986 title.
The 22-year-old Goetze went on as a substitute for Miroslav Klose near the end of regulation time, and his fresh legs made the difference. Andre Schuerrle broke down the left flank, sending his cross into the area, and the Bayern Munich midfielder did the rest with a clinical finish.
Argentina had not been back in the final since that 1990 loss and has now been beaten by Germany in the last three World Cups.
"This was our chance, and we felt that way. We couldn't do it. We have to lift our heads and suffer the pain," Argentina midfielder Javier Mascherano said. "Obviously, the pain is tremendous."
In the biggest game of his career, Messi came up short.
He had one good chance to score when he was sent free in the area just after the halftime break but sent his shot wide. Messi threatened intermittently throughout the match but was effectively smothered by the German defense. His free kick in the 120th minute went well high.
Messi then had to trudge alone up the stairs of the Maracana Stadium to accept the Golden Ball award for the tournament's best player, shaking hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel along the way.
"At this moment I don't care about this prize -- only lifting the trophy matters," Messi said. "I'm hurt for losing the way we did. ... I think we deserved a little better, we had chances."
Germany celebrates: A quarter of a million German fans reacted with unbridled joy, mixed with shock, when Goetze struck late in extra time for Germany to win the World Cup. The supporters, packed into the "fan mile" in front of Berlin's famous Brandenburg Gate, cheered, clapped and shouted, with groups of fans hugging and jumping into the air together, making so much noise that the commentary on the large screens they had come to watch could no longer be heard.
Cars were on the streets with drivers beeping their horns, whooping and yelling, before captain Philipp Lahm had even lifted the trophy at Maracana Stadium. Once he did, a massive fireworks display took place around the Brandenburg Gate.
Argentina violence: Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to restrain a group of vandals who disturbed a peaceful rally celebrating Argentina's gutsy effort in the loss to Germany. Parents with small children could be seen fleeing in fear after police, who initially remained on the sidelines as jubilant fans poured into downtown Buenos Aires, began chasing down the vandals on motorcycles. The youths responded by hurling rocks, destroying store fronts and even breaking into a theater. Police said 20 officers were injured and at least 60 people were arrested.
Brazil coach out: ESPN.com, citing a report by Brazilian TV station Globo, says Brazil has dismissed coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Goals record: Goetze's winning goal was the 171st scored in Brazil, equaling the World Cup record. The overall goals mark was set in 1998 in France, which was the first Cup played with 32 teams over 64 matches.