Reda Maher

Brazil 360: Argentina fans ‘the new English’ as Messi mania hits Rio

Reda Maher

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Rio de Janeiro has been flooded with Argentina supporters ahead of their opening match against Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Maracana.

As neighbours and bitter rivals, fans of Alejandro Sabella’s side have travelled en masse to Brazil, getting rowdy and noisy in the streets in blue-and-white clad packs.

“Come on, you English aren’t drinking enough!” one such fan yelled at a British fan enjoying a quiet beer by Copacabana beach on Saturday night.

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Argentina fans sleep off their hangovers on Sunday

Travelling fans of England and Germany are usually the most prominent at international football tournaments, but Saturday's Fan Fest was flooded with thousands of young Argentine men, who – thought of as South America’s equivalent to the Italian romancer – weren't just trying their luck with the local women, but rather any women.

They were the loudest fans there, dominating the chanting and taking over the seafront later on.

Some were taking it a step too far, boasting that they would “p*** on Brazil” as they relieved themselves al fresco due to queues for the toilets.

On the matchday the festivities continued, with these supporters getting their voices in tune on Copacabana beach:

But lets not forget the Bosnians were also out in force, making their voices heard:

There are estimated to be at least 50,000 Argentina fans in Brazil for the finals, not including those who already live in the country.

Many don't even have tickets - one supporter jokingly offered to buy my press pass for whatever figure I wanted.

Later, on the Copacabana, a Bosnian man was flogging spare tickets to Argentines to the highest bidder. Louchely perched against a railing, he was demanding upwards of $500 as a gaggle of supporters desperately tried to offer a mixture of Euros and Brazilian reals.

But geographical proximity and the chance to sample Rio’s party scene are not the main reasons they have travelled.

Argentina have under-achieved in recent World Cups, and most feel they are due a good run – particularly given their possession of the man they think remains the World’s greatest.

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The Copacabana beach is peppered with flags of all colours, but Argentina banners were in vogue, particularly those dedicated to that man.

Lionel Messi’s international travails have mimicked those of his national team. They just don’t seem to maximise their undoubted quality, with Messi often looking out of sorts despite club heroics for Barcelona.

But he has had an indifferent club season by his high standards, and he has something to prove.

It is perhaps fitting that they start this edition against the Bosnians, whose neighbours Serbia were famously thrashed in 6-0 by Argentina in 2006.

Argentina went out of that competition on penalties to hosts Germany. With a kinder draw should they win their group this time, they would take a narrower win with glee.

By Reda Maher and Paul Tully

Eurosport’s Reda Maher is on location in Brazil for the duration of the 2014 World Cup - follow him on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport

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