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Jul 13, 2014

Assessment: The best team won

Germany were simply the best.

Germany were the best team in Brazil, and they won the trophy. Here is ESPN FC blogger Stephan Uersfeld's verdict on the brighter points of Germany's campaign, as well as what could've gone better.

One sentence World Cup recap

The best team has won the World Cup.

Star man

Bastian Schweinsteiger. The veteran midfielder, written off so many times, played maybe the best match of his entire career in his first World Cup final. He got knocked down so many times, yet he got up again. The World Cup -- especially the final -- was Schweinsteiger's past few years in a nutshell. There might have been better individual performances throughout the tournament, but when he headed to Brazil with a knee injury and on the back of two ankle injuries in 2013, many doubted his fitness. The German midfielder proved them all wrong and crowned his career in Rio de Janeiro, with a cut underneath his right eye.

All team assessments

Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
Finalists: Argentina
Winners: Germany

Highlights

The semifinal and everything after. Germany ended Brazil's dream of winning the World Cup. And when they had beaten the hosts 7-1, they did not celebrate, they did not rub it into the hosts' faces. After an out-of-this-world performance, a historic win, they thought of their opponents and what defeat meant to them. It was classy and, of course, they had a job to finish. Then Mario Gotze, who had come under so much fire from domestic press, scored a beauty of a goal to win it all. Gotze celebrated with a Marco Reus (who missed out due to injury) jersey in his hands.

Low points

There have not been many low points for Germany. They might not have played the best football in every single match, and indeed, the first 45 minutes against Algeria were the closest Germany got to elimination from the competition. Without centre-back Mats Hummels and with Skohdran Mustafi at right-back, Die Nationalmannschaft were out-passed by the Maghreb state, but there was always Manuel Neuer to stop the attacks. Later, when the round of 16 clash was finally over and Germany had won 2-1, Per Mertesacker raged -- not because of the performance but because a reporter had questioned his side. "Do you want us to play beautiful again or do you want us to win it?" he asked. They did both in the end and won a thrilling final.

Lessons learned

Never underestimate Joachim Low and his preparation. The side have come a long way, from the troubled training camp in South Tyrol, with chief investigator Johann Ramoser strolling around the hotel lobby seeking answers, and the departure from Campo Bahia, Germany's World Cup base in Santo Andre, to the Maracana in Rio. Stubborn at first -- playing the infamous four centre-backs across the defence and captain Philipp Lahm in holding midfield -- Low changed his tactics not because of public pressure but because he knew it was the right thing to do.

He needed to change them only 30 minutes into the final, with Sami Khedira replacing Christoph Kramer when he went off injured. Low took the chance to bring in super sub Andre Schurrle, who would later set up Gotze, another attacking player who was subbed in for the World Cup-winning goal.

Stephan Uersfeld

Stephan is the Bundesliga correspondent for ESPN and also contributes to the Dortmund blog. Also, his Fokus Fussball blog covers the ups and downs of Dietfried Dembowski. You can follow him on twitter @uersfeld