LIMA, Peru — Halfway through my summer internship for the Rivard Report, an opportunity to accompany my father on a business trip to Peru came along, and it worked out so that I could return to my internship in a few weeks.
The fact I am down here during the 2014 FIFA World Cup turns out to be a big bonus, and I can’t help but hope Argentina rises to the occasion to defeat Germany in the Finals on Sunday. Peru hasn’t qualified for World Cup play since 1982, but that doesn’t matter right now. Everyone here is rooting for South America to win the trophy, and that means everyone here is, at least for the moment, rooting for Argentina. It’s all they have left.
The humiliation of Brazil’s 1-7 loss to Germany in Tuesday’s semi-final match only makes Argentina’s victory that much more important. It’s as if people everywhere in the Americas are feeling the pain and shock gripping Brazil. Everyone here needs another story line to come along. An Argentine win would be that story.
This country came to a standstill for the Brazil-Germany game.
Bars and restaurants surrounding Kennedy Park in the upscale Miraflores district were crowded with fans dressed head to toe in green and yellow, the colors of Brazil, blowing whistles and horns as they prepared for the start of the game.
Along Calle de las Pizzas in downtown Miraflores, a street thick with bars and young people, both locals and tourists, people posed for photos with life-size figures of futból superstars Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gerard Piqué. Every seat was filled in the area’s restaurants, bars and cafes. Those who could not afford the luxury of an inside table seemed perfectly content to stand on sidewalks and watch the game through the restaurant windows.
Fans of both teams traded comments back and forth with one another in good fun, while waiters served trays filled with Peruvian beer Cusqueña.
Once the game began, cheers of “Olé, Olé, Olé” filled the room. That lasted for the first 10 minutes of the game. Silence quickly fell across the room after Thomas Müller scored for Germany in the 11th minute. Six German fans jumped up in celebration amid the quiet, unmoving crowd where I sat and watched.
By the time Germany scored its third goal in the 24th minute, less than halfway to halftime, word of the jubilant German fans had spread and camera crews and Peruvian journalists arrived to film and interview them amid the sea of silent Peruvians and other visitors from Latin American countries. The Peruvians, on the other hand, didn’t seem to be suffering like the Brazilian fans in the stadium on television screens. After all, it wasn’t Peruvians being humiliated at the hands of the Germans.
As the goals continued to pile up, a sense of gallows humor came over the crowd. People started to laugh and make jokes, occasionally yelling “Nein!” in disbelief at the German fans. Others started to convey their hopes that Argentina would win against the Netherlands and give South Americans a reason to keep up the party.
Some Peruvians expressed fear that if Brazil had proven to be a one-man team in the person of injured star forward Neymar than so, too, might Argentina be exposed as a team that can only win with its star striker Leonel Messi.
A vendor at the Inca Market joked that he was dropping the price for a Brazilian jersey to seven soles, approximately $2.50, and increasing the price for Argentine jerseys. He said the 2014 World Cup has brought only surprises, and he expected more to come.
“I would like to say Argentina will beat Holland, but this morning I would have said Brazil will go to the finals,” the vendor said.
As the Brazil-Germany game mercifully came to an end, Lima’s streets were quiet and void of any celebration. Inside, people nodded sympathetically as Brazil’s stand-in captain David Luiz apologized through tears to his nation.
One day later, as people continued to analyze the game and search for some explanation for the terrible rout, Argentina narrowly prevailed over the Netherlands. Neither side scored during regulation time or the 30-minute overtime play. It was the exact opposite of the match witnessed one day earlier. Penalty kicks, which most fans believe involve as much luck as skill, went the Argentine side’s way, 4-2.
Sunday will be the third time Germany and Argentina have vied for the championship in contemporary times. In 1986, Argentina beat West Germany, 3-2, in Mexico City. In 1990, the West Germans exacted revenge with a late penalty kick and a 1-0 win in Rome. Sunday in Rio de Janeiro offers each team a chance to measure their play against an opponent of championship caliber.
The Estádio Maracaña will be filled with Argentine fans in blue and white, and here in Lima and throughout the Americas, all watching will be rooting for Argentina. At the same time, everyone will be wondering if there is any way Germany might punish all of South America one more time on its way to winning the trophy.
*Featured/top image: People crowd coffee shops, restaurants, anywhere with a television in Lima, Peru during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil-Germany game. Photo by Brooke Ramos.