Argentina defends Latin pride v Germany in World Cup final
By Andrew Cawthorne
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Germany battles to become the first European side to win a World Cup on Latin American soil in Sunday's final against Argentina whose captain Lionel Messi is out to emulate the great Diego Maradona.
Germany are favorites after their ruthlessly efficient 7-1 demolition of hosts Brazil in the semi-final.
Yet in Messi, Argentina have one of the world's greatest current players who can turn a big game in a flash and would dearly love to bring home the World Cup for the first time since 1986 when the team was captained by Maradona.
In a mortifying twist for Brazilians whose rivalry with their South American neighbors runs deep, some 100,000 Argentines have invaded Rio de Janeiro for the final.
Some have paid $10,000 for an airline and hotel package, while others drove the 2,000 kilometers from Buenos Aires.
Argentine flags, tents and cars were dotted all around the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches in Rio. Many climbed up to the Christ statue, draping blue-and-white colors at the bottom.
Brazilian fans have largely thrown their lot in with Germany, hoping they can stop an Argentine win that would give them bragging rights for years. Some locals, with tickets to a game where they had dreamed of seeing Brazil lift a sixth World Cup, were instead donning Germany colors for the occasion.
"We have forgiven Germany what they did to us. In fact, we admire them because they played the Brazil way," said Rio resident Bruno Perreira, outside the 74,738-capacity Maracana wearing a Germany replica top and joking with Argentina fans. Continued...