ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Brazil and the World Cup now and the final match up is set. Argentina will face Germany for the title on Sunday, having defeated the Netherlands today on penalty kicks 4-2. The Germans absolutely dismantled Brazil yesterday, and the reverberations of that game are still rattling around Brazil and the world. NPR's Tom Goldman is no doubt feeling them where he is in Rio de Janeiro. And, Tom, let's start with today's game. No goals after 120 minutes so penalty kicks, and Argentina came out on top. Describe the action for us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Yeah. First ever World Cup semifinal game, Robert, to end up scoreless through extra time, not a lot of shots on goal, it was a defensive struggle. The starters for both teams were pretty much bottled up - Lionel Messi for Argentina, Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie for the Netherlands. And in the shootout, after extra time, Argentina's goalkeeper, Sergio Romero, was the hero. He saved two penalty kicks and helped Argentina win 4-2 on penalty kicks. And there will be those who say, as always, that it's unfortunate to have this critical hard-fought game come down to penalty kicks, but them's the rules.
SIEGEL: It beats a coin toss, for example. So the finals will feature Argentina and Germany. How do those two teams match up?
GOLDMAN: Well, this is a replay of 1990, if you can remember back that far when Argentina played - it was West Germany then - and West Germany with Jurgen Klinsmann, the current U.S. coach, as a player then. Of course, you know, today, in 2014, Germany is coming off the unbelievable showing against Brazil, the 7-1 massacre. The Germans have evolved over the course of this World Cup into the best team in the field on offense and defense. They can play the meticulous ball possession game they're famous for. And as they showed yesterday, they can play the all-out counterattacking team on offense as well. They're always good on defense. So Germany definitely has to be favored. Argentina has Messi, the man who's trying to add a World Cup trophy to his already sizable trophy case with Barcelona. But - and the Germans will obviously be keying on him. But yeah, we've got to give the nod to Germany going in.
SIEGEL: Brazil of course has one more game on Saturday. That's for third place, and they'll play today's loser, the Netherlands. Can that game and being in that game do anything to make Brazilians feel any better?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, you know, third place isn't really the thing you want to be playing for, especially when you wanted to win this thing on your home soil. It potentially could heal some of the hurt in the short term with a win over the Netherlands. And, you know, it's going to be a tough match up for Brazil. The Netherlands is an extremely talented team. And the Dutch have shown they can score in bushels, not the kind of thing Brazil wants to hear after the Germany debacle. But if Brazil can pull itself together, and it will have Tiago Silva back to help on defense, there's the opportunity to end the World Cup on more of an up-note. Regardless of what happens Saturday though, Robert, the Germany loss is a once in a generation thing. Kids in this country today will be remembering last night when they're adults.
SIEGEL: OK. Thanks, Tom. That's NPR's Tom Goldman speaking to us from Rio de Janeiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.