Pain-stricken Argentinians held their heads high after watching their national team give it all against a powerful Germany yesterday, but come up short in extra time, losing 1-0 in the country’s first World Cup finals appearance in 24 years.
Entering the match as the underdog, Argentina showed a great deal of determination during much of the game, creating several opportunities to score in the first 90 minutes of regulation time. In a packed Plaza San Martin, where fans climbed atop lamp posts to catch a glimpse of the match on a giant screen, a crowd of some 20,000 people came to life and shouted every time the team led by captain Lionel Messi entered German area.
“I feel an enormous sadness,” 19-year-old Soledad Canelas, carrying a blue-and-white Argentine flag, said after the game. “I had the illusion of seeing Argentina become champion for the first time in my life.” Argentina last played in a World Cup final in 1990, when it lost to West Germany. Four years earlier, it became world champion for the second time led by captain Diego Maradona, also in a final against the Germans.
After yesterday’s match, a sea of fans gathered at the iconic Obelisk in Argentina’s capital in a show of appreciation of their team’s grit. Amid a display of fireworks, fans expressed pride in their team’s performance. Many businesses around the country had closed during the game, and in the capital thousands of fans watched the match on giant screens. Many people held game-day celebrations of traditional beef barbeques known as asados.
Giant posters with a smiling Messi seemed to greet passers-by on almost every corner of Buenos Aires, where the Argentine team’s jerseys were among the most sold items in sports stores. The shot at the title united Argentines otherwise exasperated by one of the world’s highest inflation rates, an encroaching debt crisis and a corruption scandal that has penetrated deep into President Cristina Fernandez’s inner circle.
Fernandez, whose approval rating has plunged in recent months, kept a low profile during the tournament. She declined an invitation to attend the final, preferring instead to rest ahead of a summit Tuesday, also in Brazil, with leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and China.