Leo De Janeiro: Praying for an Argentine World Cup Title

Argentinians takes over Rio, as the epic World Cup finale approaches.

Dan Goldberg
Dan Goldberg, replete with tartan cap and Argentinean flag, ahead of the 2014 World Cup final.
Dan Goldberg, replete with tartan cap and Argentinean flag, ahead of the 2014 World Cup final.Credit: Dan Goldberg
Dan Goldberg

RIO DE JANEIRO - Lionel Messi and the masses who hail him as their messiah have invaded the most famous samba city in the world.

Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon have become virtual suburbs of Buenos Aires. Conga lines of cars have crossed the border filled with sleepless supporters praying to Corcovado for one more gift to the Gods.

For me, a Scottish-born Jewish football tragic who's travelled from Australia for 36 hours it's akin to The Tartan Army invading England.

The history, rivalry and dyed-in-the-bones loyalty that the jogo bonito breeds in South America is positively palpable.

For Argentina, it's arguably bigger than when Maradona, virtually single-handedly, won them the World Cup.

To win it on Brazilian soil, in the Maracana, the Mecca of football stadiums, belongs in the stuff of fables.

Jews, even among my dwindling clan of Scottish Jews, don't line up to support Germany, though Scottish Jews have had some of our greatest triumphs watching England lose to Germany. Perverse as it seems, it is true, virtually to a man.

Scots have a long and tragic football history forged in failure heaped upon glorious failure. I vividly remember Argentina 1978 as a wee boy of eight because our manager, Ally McLeod, managed to convince the nation we could actually win the thing.

Hutzpah had a new anti-hero, though I was blissfully unaware of that at the time.
What unfolded was an unmitigated disaster I'd rather not repeat.

Judging by the mood in Brazil today, they are experiencing that, and then some. Nadir doesn't get close to describing their visceral trauma.

And it could get much, much worse.

Brazilians cannot countenance the notion of their Auld Enemy winning, let alone on their turf.

As one local said to me this morning, "They will never let us forget it."

If Argentina wins, be they inspired by Messi, Mascherano or Aguero, Rio 2014 will become forever known as Leo de Janeiro.

It sounds like a fable. I just hope to witness it.

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