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Argentines reacted with tears, cheers and violence after the dream of a third World Cup title slipped through their fingers Sunday, as clashes between hooligans and police ended a massive street party.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to the Obelisk in Buenos Aires, the iconic monument where the country traditionally celebrates and rallies, waving the flag, setting off fireworks and singing the praises of national hero Lionel Messi and team.
Despite the 1-0 loss to Germany in the down-to-the-wire, extra-time match, young Argentines climbed onto traffic lights and bus stops, dancing and singing to the beat of drums.
But after several hours of partying, dozens of hardcore fans known as "barra bravas" started throwing rocks at riot police watching over the crowd, who responded by firing rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon.
The clashes sent families with children scurrying for refuge in restaurants or hotel lobbies.Most of the crowd dispersed as a haze of tear gas settled over the area, leaving just a few dozen fans who broke windows and set trash on fire, determined to provoke the police.
TV images showed looters carting off stolen items, including tables and chairs from a restaurant, as newscasters criticized police for just standing by. "Sons of bitches!" a woman screamed at the top of her lungs as a brief scuffle broke out between Argentines and Germans, quickly broken up by policIt remains to be seen what reception the team will get when they arrive home Monday morning, in the light of day and hours after Sunday's day-long party.
Fifteen police were injured in the fray and some 40 people were arrested, media reports said.Despite their display of national pride after the match, the weight of disappointment was heavy. Newspaper Clarin summed it up on its website: "The Argentine dream frustrated in extra time."