If one is to believe the monopoly sports media, the people of Argentina and Brazil are at each other’s throats. Is this the reality? Brazilians call Argentines “hermanos” (brothers), they have an intense football rivalry, and their leading athletes are promoting respect and solidarity.
AFP (July 12) – Tearful Brazil star Neymar says he is prepared to set aside the historical rivalry between South America’s two footballing heavyweights as he wants four-time world footballer of the year Lionel Messi to win the World Cup when Argentina meets Germany in tomorrow’s final.
At an emotional press conference Neymar, who missed Brazil’s 7-1 humiliation against Germany in the semi-finals because of a broken vertebrae, said his Barcelona club mate Messi deserved to add World Cup winner to his honours.
“Messi’s history in the sport is so important, he has won a lot of trophies and I will be cheering for him,” said Neymar.
“He is a friend, he is my team-mate and I wish him luck.”
His own misfortune prompted Neymar to wipe away tears as he described his fears, immediately after the knee in the back from Colombian Juan Camil Zuniga in the quarter-final, that he would be paralysed.
“I was blessed in that situation because it wasn’t more serious. Two more centimetres up and, well, I could be in a wheelchair. So it is really difficult.
“It happened at such an important point in my career,” he said.
“It was something I cannot accept. That challenge and what happened was unacceptable,” added the 22-year-old.
Rio de Janeiro braced for up to 100,000 Argentine fans arriving by car, bus and motorhome for the World Cup final against Germany at the iconic Maracana Stadium.
Argentina had already sent the biggest contingent of fans to Brazil during the month-long tournament, flooding cities to follow their hero Lionel Messi’s team, even though many have not even had tickets to the games.
Tens of thousands who were in Sao Paulo for Wednesday’s semi-final triumph against the Netherlands hit the road the next day for the six-hour trek across the southeastern region ahead of Sunday’s final.
They were joining others who have been in Rio for days already, anticipating their team’s triumph while camping out at the Terreirao do Samba, an open-air concert venue now packed with cars, minibuses and motorhomes.
Since that venue is full, authorities are offering to house the newcomers nearby at the Sambadrome, the arena that normally hosts Rio’s sensual and colourful Carnival parade.