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Argentina beats France and wins its first World Cup in 36 years

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

A most epic game - those are the words of my colleague Steve Inskeep. But it's safe to say a lot of people feel that way about today's World Cup final. In the end, and it took a long time to get there, Argentina prevailed over France. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is at a very loud stadium in Doha. He joins us now. Hi, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Ayesha, I can hear you. That's the first victory. Second victory, actually - Argentina just got another one.

RASCOE: And NPR's Carrie Kahn also joins us from Buenos Aires. Carrie, welcome to you as well.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Oh, thank you so much. This is crazy out here.

RASCOE: It sounds like it. Tom, I'm going to start with you. What a match. Walk us through what happened over the last couple of hours.

GOLDMAN: I'm going to try, Ayesha. OK. So I can dispatch with the first 79 minutes and say it was a real stinker unless you were an Argentina fan. They scored a couple of goals. And France, the defending champion - this thing was supposed to be a really tight match. They just had no fight in them. It was like, what is going on? But as they say, soccer is a game of moments. And France grabbed two moments starting in the 79th minute. A French player was fouled, and they got a penalty kick. The great Kylian Mbappe, their 23-year-old phenom scored on the penalty kick.

OK, it's 2-1, but it's still only about 10 minutes left in the match. A minute later, Mbappe scores again. It's 2-all. Oh, my God. There's another moment for you. Suddenly the World Cup is up for grabs. And I would say, Ayesha, from the 79th minute on, it was simply the greatest final in World Cup history. I have not seen them all. I am not that old. But find me a better one.

RASCOE: Wow.

GOLDMAN: So it was 2-all. We'll get to Carrie in a second. Let me just finish. So...

RASCOE: I'll let you finish.

GOLDMAN: OK. So it was 2-all, and it stayed that way. They went into 30 minutes of extra time. They both scored in extra time, and it was 3 - that made it 3-all. Then they went to penalty kicks, which people think - some think it's unfair, but it's just the way it was. In penalty kicks, the Argentine goalkeeper blocked the second attempt by the French. That gave Argentina the advantage. Another French player missed, and that was it. Argentina won the penalty kicks, 4-2. There were two groups of Argentine players who collapsed on the field and group hugs. And of course, everyone was looking for Lionel Messi. The great, the incomparable Lionel Messi has now won his first ever World Cup title at the age of 35. The guy looks happy, Ayesha.

RASCOE: And, Carrie, was the tension high there? I can only imagine how high the tension was in Buenos Aires. Tell me how badly people there wanted this win. We may - OK, we may not have Carrie because the line was kind of shaky. So Tom - did this match make up for the controversy of holding the World Cup in Qatar?

GOLDMAN: You know, I think the world right now, sadly, is not thinking about the controversy because that was, as Mr. Inskeep said, an epic match. Those issues remain. Those issues followed the World Cup throughout - the issue - you know, issues with LGBTQ rights and with migrant workers. Sadly, now that the World Cup is over, stupendously over, those issues - OK, those issues - we don't know if they're going to linger.

RASCOE: OK.

GOLDMAN: But I understand we have Carrie.

RASCOE: Yes, we have Carrie. So, Carrie, tell me about what it's like where you are right now. How badly did people want this win?

KAHN: I feel like the whole country has exploded. The energy when that last penalty kick went - Tom, I don't know about you, but the Argentines here were going crazy, and everybody is out on the streets now. There is no cell service. I ran into a cafe and tried to get Wi-Fi. And people are just pouring out of these public parks where they've got these huge screens up for everybody to watch. It was the most intense - like you said, that first 80 minutes, it was - everybody was thrilled.

And then the last half of this game, it was just a roller coaster. And when it went into penalties, I thought the people I were with were going to just have a heart attack. People are saying they needed this victory. Argentina is in terrible economic shape. Inflation is almost 100%. People are hurting here. They needed it. If a country could will a victory, I think they just did.

RASCOE: And, Carrie, so what are people doing? Are they just drinking and yelling and - what are they doing right now?

KAHN: They are streaming out of the parks. It is a sea of light blue and white jerseys. Everybody has the Argentine flag. There's kids dressed - everybody is screaming Messi, and they're taking over this huge boulevard near downtown. And everybody is heading to downtown where they have the big obelisk monument. That's where you go to celebrate. And it is going to be crazy down there. It is going to be packed with hundreds of thousands of people, and that's where everybody's making their way.

RASCOE: Tom, one last question for you. What stood out to you the most out of this World Cup series?

GOLDMAN: What stood out most - is that what you asked me...

RASCOE: Yes.

GOLDMAN: ...Ayesha?

RASCOE: Yes.

GOLDMAN: This damn match, Ayesha.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: This was unbelievable. I've been doing this for 25 years, and I have never seen anything like this.

RASCOE: OK. Thank you so much. NPR correspondent Tom Goldman and Carrie Kahn, thanks to you both.

KAHN: Oh, you're welcome.

RASCOE: Go Argentina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.