This World Cup didn’t quite go as the dreamers had hoped. They’d wanted a final between two of South America’s most successful sides, with Argentina meeting Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil, of course, were meant to triumph, with Neymar lifting the Seleção to their sixth World Cup title.
Instead, Brazil were knocked out in deeply unceremonious fashion, with Germany thumping them 7-1 in the semifinal. To make matters worse, now one of their biggest rivals, Argentina, will be playing in the final.
Local supporters have spent matches backing whoever Argentina were up against. Argentina, in turn, hung banners in Sao Paolo during their semifinal victory, mocking the seven goals Brazil allowed as they exited the tournament. For the albiceleste, having Lionel Messi host the World Cup in the storied Maracanã would make their third title all the more sweet.
Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta confirmed his team’s feelings toward Brazil, saying, “It’s special for us to play in this country, especially as Brazilian fans have been against Argentina at this World Cup.”
Perhaps more significantly, Zabaleta also alluded to the fact that the Brazil fans’ antagonism may actually help lift Argentina to victory, explaining, “Sometimes, if you have all the people against you, you feel even stronger.”
The South American side go into Sunday’s final as the underdogs, requiring penalties to get past Netherlands. You can’t help but think they’ll be nervous, remembering Germany’s demolition of Brazil. But perhaps when those boos ring out from the crowd in Rio, Argentina will dig deep to find the means to win.
That, or they’ll simply make sure Messi gets the ball.