Brazilians might have thought that their World Cup nightmare couldn’t possibly get any worse – and then bitter rivals Argentina reached the final in their own backyard on Wednesday.
Still agonising over their traumatic 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany just 24 hours earlier, Brazilians will now have to watch Argentina and their superstar Lionel Messi battle for the trophy in Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracana Stadium on Sunday.
Many Brazilians rooted for the Netherlands to beat their South American neighbours in Wednesday’s semi-final. But Argentina saw off the dogged Dutch 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out after a 0-0 draw in 120 minutes of attritional stalemate.
“Seeing Argentina in the final in our home hurts, especially after the Selecao’s worst-ever defeat,” said Marcio Carneiro da Silva, 36, a mailman drowning his sorrows on the terrace of a Rio de Janeiro restaurant.
His friend Cesar Augusto, 37, already picked a new team for Sunday. “Now I’m German,” he said.
Brazilians noted the final will be in the same stadium where Brazil lost the decisive game of the 1950 tournament to Uruguay, a defeat that traumatised the country.
“The nightmare continues,” wrote O Dia newspaper in its online edition.
“In addition to not being able to dream about a sixth title, Brazilians will have to live with the real possibility of one of its main rivals triumphing in the ultimate football temple,” it said.
The sports daily Lance used a Twitter hashtag for its title, #SomosTodosAlemanha! (We Are All Germany). Argentines responded on the social media website by repeatedly typing the number 7, reminding Brazilians of their humiliating defeat.
Argentines were on cloud nine, singing and chanting at the stadium in Sao Paulo and in bars across Brazil.
“Reaching the final in Brazil is the best thing that could happen to us, although I would have preferred to beat them in the final,” said Miguel Martin, 32, a truck driver wearing a hat in Argentina’s blue and white colours who watched the game at a public screening in Sao Paulo.
Brazil and Argentina have battled for football supremacy in South America for decades.
Brazilians flaunt their record five World Cup titles at Argentines, whose team has won the trophy twice.
Throughout the World Cup, Argentine fans chanted in stadiums that football legend Diego Maradona was better than Brazilian great Pele.
But the competition goes beyond the pitch. Argentina was a leading emerging nation in the early 20th century but it was eclipsed by Brazil in economic and political might in recent decades.
At the official “Fan Fest” in Sao Paulo, some Brazilians wore the Dutch team’s orange colours, applauding every time the Netherlands were close to scoring.
Now they have to cope with the possibility of President Dilma Rousseff handing the trophy to Argentine captain Messi.
“I can’t imagine Dilma giving the trophy to Argentina at the Maracana. This can’t happen,” said Marcos Raimondi, a 44-year-old economist wearing the official Dutch team jersey. “It’s worse than what happened yesterday. It’s a nightmare. Unbearable.”
Amadeus Marques, a 27-year-old doctor also in Dutch regalia, was equally dumbstruck.
“This is incredible. I feel the same sensation as yesterday. Since the fourth German goal I was already hoping that Argentina would not go through and that we would play them for third place.”
But not all Brazilians were rooting against their South American peers.
Leonan Freitas, a 33-year-old bank worker, was the only one among a group of friends sipping beers at a Rio bar who cheered for Argentina.
“Argentina is a neighbour. I want South America to win,” he said to his friends’ disapproval. “I was more scared of losing the third-place game to Argentina.”