The 2014 World Cup was thrown into utter chaos on July 8. Yet as Brazil started recovering from the carnage of its shattered World Cup dreams, Argentina and the Netherlands had a more orderly semifinal on their hands on July 9. There were no seven goal barrages and there was actually some defense on hand, at least until Argentina came to life on penalty kicks and filled the other hand of the final pairing.
A scoreless match through 120 minutes came down to penalty kicks, just like in the Netherlands' quarterfinal victory over Costa Rica. This time around, the Dutch couldn't replace starting goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen with penalty specialist Tim Krul, as it had used up all its substitutions. Forcing the Netherlands to waste them turned out to be the winning strategy for Argentina in the end.
It also helped that Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero came up with the saves that Cillessen couldn't. While Romero stopped the first and third Dutch penalty kicks, Cillessen was beaten on all four shots he faced. The first one from Lionel Messi gave Argentina an early lead it wouldn't relinquish, and the final kick from substitute Maxi Rodríguez wrapped it up.
A loss from Argentina would have set up a third place match with Brazil, although the two arch-rivals looked destined to meet in the final. Instead, not only must the nation of Brazil live with seeing its team absent from the championship, it has to watch Argentina play for it against the German team that slaughtered the hosts.
While the World Cup final is a true no-win proposition for the Brazilians watching, Germany and Argentina have been waiting a long time for a win like this. In fact, the last time Argentina won it all was against West Germany in 1986, while the last German World Cup title came against Argentina four years later. That makes this final pairing all the more fitting, no matter what Brazil and the Netherlands had hoped for.
The Dutch are now going yet another four years without a World Cup crown, having taken a step back from making the final in 2010. While the Netherlands and Brazil got knocked out in the most different fashions imaginable, the end result will still leave them in the exact same place on July 12, as Germany and Argentina head for a more prestigious match on July 13.