RIO DE JANEIRO - Latin American football fans never need much excuse to get excited, but the region's
best start to a World Cup in years is fuelling the fiesta and
giving them a shot of sporting pride.
Six out of seven Latin American teams at the World Cup have
qualified for the knockout phase in South Africa, compared with
just four at the last World Cup in Germany in 2006.
Slick football from teams like Chile and Uruguay as well as
traditional giants Argentina and Brazil has seen the region's
"It's definitely a huge satisfaction. I feel proud to be
from Latin America because Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina they're
all playing great football," said Jose Raul Portocarrero, a
63-year-old dentist who was watching Germany beat Ghana on
Wednesday afternoon in downtown Lima, Peru.
Peru did not make it to the finals, so Portocarrero was
rooting for Paraguay "because they have driven players; they are
bold, tough players."
Many other Latin Americans tend to throw their allegiances
behind regional giants Brazil or Argentina if their own nations
get knocked out.
In Buenos Aires, the early exits of storied
European nations such as Italy and France have fueled hopes that
national icon Maradona can coach Argentina to victory.
"Before, Europeans always won," said Elias Cianciaruso, a
27-year-old waiter. Now, he said with a large dose of
exaggeration, South American players "are faster, taller and
stronger than the Europeans. One Argentine player can beat the
entire Spanish team."
Jorge Vigiano, a 43-year-old businessman in Buenos Aires,
who was buying a team shirt with midfielder Lionel Messi's name
for his daughter, said his country would have already won if the
tournament was awarded on passion.
"In European countries, there are fans, but it's not the
That passion has been on display as thousands of fans across
the region from Chile's capital Santiago to Recife in
northeastern Brazil have gathered to watch games on giant
Mexico City's governor estimated that 80,000 fans watched
their team take on Uruguay in an open-air viewing area in the
city's historical center, with the number expected to rise to
100,000 for Sunday's knockout game against Argentina.
In Santiago, police have had to resort to water cannon to
disperse unruly supporters after both of the side's games so far
and authorities planned to send an additional 1,500 police onto
the streets for Friday's clash with Spain.
"Here, football is lived differently - it's lived more
intensely" said Argentine Victor Munoz, who said that as a child
he often rode on horseback for more than 5 km (3 miles),
crossing rivers on the way, to watch football games.
Brazilians, having won the most World Cups, are the most
confident of carrying off the trophy for a sixth time.
Two-thirds of them believed they would win the World Cup in
South Africa, compared to 48 percent of Argentinians, 15 percent
of Chileans and 12 percent of Mexicans, according to a survey
commissioned by Brazil's Ibope polling firm.
"Before I came to live here I supported Brazil, but now I
can't stand the arrogance and don't want them to win," said
Amilka Monjaras, a 35-year-old teacher from El Salvador who
lives in Rio de Janeiro, proving that regional affinity only
goes so far. "It would be the same if I lived in Argentina."
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