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The great divide: Argentina take on Germany on the pitch, Brazil fans off it

A roaring crowd, tireless Mexican waves, the national anthem and the rhythmic chanting of the heroes' names may give an adrenaline injection to a team. On the other hand, constant boos and ugly taunts can rile players.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2014 21:15 IST
Sandip Bardhan
Sandip Bardhan
Hindustan Times
Argentina,Brazil,World Cup 2014

The song Argentina supporters are humming after Brazil's humiliation on home turf is quite different in tone and nature from 2014 World Cup's egalitarian anthem, 'We are one'.

Thousands of La Albiceleste fans are now taunting the hosts in Rio with 'Brasil, decime que se siente (Brazil, tell me how it feels)', a song they have brought along with them to the neighbour country.

The bold lyrics, which announce Lionel Messi will win the Cup and Diego Maradona is greater than Pele, highlight the epic rivalry between the two South American giants.

No wonder why Argentina's progress to the final is Selecao's 'Bad Moon Rising' moment - the taunt song borrows its tune from this 1969 hit of American band Creedence Clearwater Revival.

La Albiceleste's third World Cup title, on Brazil's soil, will only add to the embarrassment of the hosts after their ignominious 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany in the semis.

And the Germans are well aware of that. Joachim Loew's boys have appealed to Selecao fans for support, hoping Brazilians will swallow their bitter loss and choose the terminator over the arch-rival.

Even though Neymar has pitched in for Barcelona teammate Messi and his side, media reports suggest Argentina should get ready to face the music of hostility played from the galleries when they face Germany in the historic Maracana in front of a 77,000-strong crowd comprising thousands of roaring Brazilians.

But, does that really matter?

Germany's appeal for support underlines that the final encounter was kicked off the moment Maxi Rodriguez scored in the penalty shootout against the Netherlands.

And the mind game off the pitch is a deft stroke aimed at cashing in on home support. Although Germany are the favourites at this juncture, they will not mind some noise in their favour.

After all, no European country has won the World Cup in South America so far.

Brazilians rallying around Germany means Argentina will have to face Thomas Mueller and rest of the well-oiled Germany team on the pitch and Selecao supporters off it. It also means the much-anticipated Brazil-Argentina clash in the final will be played out in Rio on Sunday, albeit differently.

However, the idea of home advantage is a riddle in the history of sports. Everybody accept it is there, but there is a lack of consensus on the 'why' factor.

A roaring crowd, tireless Mexican waves, the national anthem and the rhythmic chanting of the heroes' names may give an adrenaline injection to a team.

On the other hand, constant boos and ugly taunts can rile players, especially if their team is on the back foot.

Back home, in 2005, an angry crowd in Eden Gardens jeered at captain Rahul Dravid's Team India when a defeat looked imminent against South Africa. The infamous match, played against the backdrop of local hero Sourav Ganguly being sidelined, is also remembered for the then India coach Greg Chappell's 'middle finger' gesture.

But, then again, a massive support could not secure India's win at the same venue in the 1996 Cricket World Cup semi-finals against Sri Lanka. It is another story that the match had to be abandoned after the crowd turned violent.

Likewise, in the ongoing mega show, Brazilians' support could not ensure Belgium's win against Argentina in the quarter-finals. Guess what, a Huffington Post report says Argentina players sang 'Brasil, decime que se siente' after securing their berth in the semis.

An article in The Economist cites particular characteristics of a stadium, climatic conditions, "wear and tear travel on the visitors" and biased refereeing on some occasions as some of the key components of home advantage.

Clearly, these factors are not tilted towards Germany. Hence, support alone is unlikely to be the deciding factor in Sunday's final.

Maxi Rodriguez knows that. The Argentine midfielder has even cold-shouldered Neymar's support offer, a rare thing coming in La Albiceleste's way in Brazil these days.

"I'm indifferent to Neymar saying that Argentina or Germany should be champions… What bothers me is what they say there (in Argentina), I don't care what outsiders say," reports have quoted him as saying.

Rodriguez's comments indicate that expectations and a 'never-say-die' attitude to fulfil them could be the X Factor in brewing for Argentina.

And X Factors have contributed to the unbelievable on the pitch - like giving Javed Miandad the elevation for his last ball six against India in Sharjah in 1986, or scripting Liverpool's dramatic comeback from 0-3 to win the 2005 UEFA Champions League against Milan.

An Associated Press report says football has once again played a "patriotic touchstone" in uniting Argentina, a country stalked by crimes and sky-high inflation, as fans are riding high on a wave of hope.

In Sunday's final, hope will triumph; irrespective of the continent they are born in.

There will be fireworks when the two football powerhouses meet, and Argentina's success against the organised and mighty Germans depend on whether they can turn the burden of expectations of an ailing country into their armour.

Going by the performance of the two sides, it is advantage Germany. But, fairy tales do happen in sports, especially in the Beautiful Game.

After all, we have seen on numerous occasions the dejected Hollywood hero rising from the ashes to the call of duty to meet the audacity of hope.

First Published: Jul 12, 2014 15:48 IST