Brazilian fans cry for Argentina. Not
Locals happy to cheer semi-final conquerors Germany as old enemy leave empty-handed
And so South America’s World Cup is over and it is a European side going home with the trophy. After all the pride in how the region’s teams performed over the last month it ends with Germany becoming the first European side in the tournament’s 84-year history to win on this continent. And for the Brazilians here in the Maracanã last night that was absolutely fine with them.
For the locals this was always going to be a melancholy day after the debacle in Belo Horizonte. It had been planned as the moment the country could exorcise the ghost of 64 years ago when needing just a draw to lift the trophy the seleção blew it, losing to Uruguay in front of 200,000 people in this very stadium.
Now they could only come in the hope that the Germans would prevent Argentina rubbing salt into the wound they themselves inflicted with that 7-1 thumping.
The Argentine Invasion might have taken Copacabana and the Sambódromo but in the Maracanã they were outnumbered by a Brazilian-German alliance of convenience forged just five days after one had been humiliated by the other.
The loud boos that greeted Messi and company as they emerged for their warm-up made clear many Brazilians had not cashed in and sold their tickets to desperate Argentines reportedly offering thousands of euros and had come to support their recent conquerors.
This was a Brazil-Argentina clasico by proxy. When five minutes into the match the Argentines started up their now famous song about beating Brazil at Italia 90 the locals drowned them out with a deafening screech of whistles which then turned into an early series of olés at some early German possession. The tone was set.
Any Argentines holding up seven fingers, as they have been fond of doing all week, drew a response of “pentacampeão” – five-times champions – just to remind their noisy neighbours have much distance they still have to make up.
Back and forward went the verbal jousting. When Toni Kroos’ loose header back to his goalkeeper put Gonzalo Higuaín through one-on-one with Manuel Neuer there was a sharp intake of Brazilian breath.
When Higuaín sliced horrible wide they exhaled and taunted their neighbours as Javier Mascherano squatted down in agony at a chance wasted, hands on head.
When Higuaín thought he had made amends on the half hour the albiceleste roared, only to be have the linesman’s flag silence them suddenly, the cue for more Brazilian jeering.
As the game become nervier and nastier in the second half so did the battle in the stands.
When Neuer knocked out Higuaín the Argentines were furious, several cups of beer hurtling down towards the pitch.
But they were increasingly bullish. Having come into the game as underdogs they seemed confident Alejandro Sabella’s strategy of defending deep and hitting Germany on the break was working.
No more olés
Though German possession was still plentiful there were no more olés from the Brazilians.
Some people’s nerves were fraying. There were little pockets of trouble as hotheads could not contain the rising tension and stewards had to escort away isolated Argentines who had found themselves surrounded by Brazilians.
As Argentina carved out chances for Sergio Aguero and substitute Rodrigo Palacios in extra-time it seemed this German team was set on living up to its tag as nearly men.
The Brazilians were now sat down and quiet. Making all the noise were their opponents singing the overture to their national anthem which bounced off the roof and echoed around the stadium.
But their chants stuck in their throats when Mario Götze brilliantly controlled an Andre Schürrle cross and slotted past Romero. Now the roof nearly came off as the Brazilians found their voice again, roaring their delight and probably most of all, relief.
Schadenfreude is best served loud. Argentina’s desperate attempts to get back on level terms were jeered as the locals waved goodbye to their now silent rivals, stunned that the football fates seemed set to have overlook Messi and their date with destiny.
They gave him and his team a warm round of applause as they collected their runners-up medals. The Brazilians refrained from gloating, happy enough the nightmare had been averted.
For Argentina the long drought at international level goes on and the World Cup has its third European champion in a row. It is South America’s longest stretch without winning the trophy that means most to its fans. But the Brazilians didn’t care much.