Latin America & Caribbean

Despite humiliation by Germany, Brazilians unlikely to back Argentina

Brazilian and German fans at Mineirao stadium, W Cup semi-final Image copyright AllSport/Getty Images
Image caption Not even the most optimistic German fan could have expected beating Brazil 7-1 at the Mineirao stadium

Germany may have inflicted a humiliating defeat on Brazil in the World Cup, but a historic rivalry with Argentina may win them some unlikely local support in Sunday's final.

The rivalry between these two South American neighbours dates back to the early 1900s when football started to become popular in the region.

Argentina and Brazil have produced world-class players like Garrincha, Ronaldo, Messi and Batistuta to compete on the World stage.

Meanwhile local clubs often play heated matches - on and off the pitch - in regional tournaments.

And, of course, there is the everlasting dispute over who is the greatest football player of all time. Would it be Argentina's Maradona or Brazil's Pele?

The chant "Maradona is greater than Pele" has become a hit among Argentine fans in the World Cup in Brazil: "You will see Messi, and he will bring us the trophy," it goes.

Brazilian fans, in turn, have created their own anti-Maradona chant: "A thousand goals, only Pele scored 1,000 goals!"

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Messi, Pope Francis and Maradona: ever present amongst the Argentine fans who travelled to Brazil
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Brazillians tease their neighbours that while Argentina is still pursuing its third trophy, Pele was part of three World Cup-winning teams

The two countries didn't play against each other in this World Cup but the rivalry could easily be seen in stadiums and on the streets.

Many Brazilians went to Argentina's matches during the tournament wearing the shirts of their rivals and chanting support for them, which greatly offended the visitors.

Amid these tensions security was tightened in Sao Paulo for Argentina's match against the Netherlands on Wednesday as there were fears of clashes.

Inside and outside the stadium, Argentina's supporters chanted "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven," referring to Brazil's 7-1 defeat by Germany.

Brazilian fans got angry and police had to step in in at least one occasion. But some Argentine fans said they were surprised by the lack of hostility.

Beyond football

For many, the rivalry goes beyond football to other sports - or pretty much everything in life.

"I can support everyone, except Argentina. I'm Pele, not Maradona," Luiz Amorim, 55, told a Brazilian newspaper.

Eduardo Paes, Rio de Janeiro's mayor, jokingly said in an interview last year that he would "kill himself" in the case of an Argentine win over Brazil in a World Cup final.

At least that is not going to happen now.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Before the match: A German fan poses for a photo with Brazilians as they prepare to watch the semi-final
Image copyright AP
Image caption Brazilian fans turned up in great numbers to support Belgium against Argentina in the quarter-final

For many Brazilians a victory for the "hermanos" - Spanish for "brothers", the word Brazilians use somewhat ironically to refer to the Argentines - would be a tragedy.

"Argentina can't win here," says 44-year-old Lilia Viana.

The final match will be played at Rio de Janeiro's famous Maracana stadium, where Brazil lost the 1950 World Cup final to Uruguay.

Brazil has won a record five World Cup titles. Germany has three and Argentina, two.

"If Argentina wins, I'll stop watching football. They just can't win," said 27-year-old Gabriel Tedde, from Sao Paulo.

South American solidarity

However, the picture is complex and for various reasons some Brazilians may end up supporting Argentina on Sunday.

The injured striker Neymar will be cheering for them out of loyalty to Barcelona team mates Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano.

Eighteen-year-old Marcus Guimaraes had a very different reason.

"I will support Argentina because Brazil's preparations for the World Cup were really bad," he said before the tournament.

Prior to the World Cup many critics suggested the tournament would be a logistical nightmare but it has largely been seen as successful by officials, experts and the media.

Image copyright AP
Image caption "Strength Neymar": Argentine fans in Brasilia show their support to the injured Brazilian striker

For some Brazilians supporting Argentina in the match against the Netherlands on Wednesday, the motivation was to include South America in the final, avoiding an all-European event.

Others just feared another fiasco if Brazil had to face Argentina in the play-off for third place on Saturday.

But, by and large, they seem to be in the minority.

Brazilian Juliano Alves, 22, summed up a more commonly heard view: "If Brazil can't win, Argentina can't either."

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