AVANA TIMES —Now that Argentina has made it to the World Cup final against Germany, the vast majority of Cubans are rooting for the white and sky-blue team.
It’s not that the Germans have no followers in Cuba, but the greatest number of Cuban fans are divided between Brazil and Argentina – and, since the hosts of this year’s Cup cannot aspire to anything but third place, lovers of the green and yellow jersey on the island are now hopping onto the white-and-blue wagon.
The World Cup once again stirred up passions in Cuba with this week’s semifinals. What we saw at Havana’s Yara and Riviera movie theater, where the Cup’s matches were shown on the big screen, as they were during the previous championship, was particularly beautiful. We made our way to the theater to witness the uncontainable joy of the fans of Argentina, which, after 24 years, makes it to a final again.
“It’s incredible,” Gerardo tells us. “We suffered a bit. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t feel Argentinean. But the joy of having made it to the final makes up for it all. Argentina hasn’t yet played as well as it can, and I hope they do at the final against Germany.”
“It’s gotta happen, bro,” Yoan interjects, “it’s been six games and they haven’t managed to get the offensive in gear. Everything’s been perfect defense-wise, and it’s funny, because that’s what people have criticized Argentina the most for, but, in terms of offense, they haven’t had two good games in a row. Let’s hope Angel Di Maria can come back for the final, because he’s the perfect complement for Lionel Messi.”
“The game-saver was the goalkeeper,” Maikel comments. “I don’t think he’s a great goalkeeper, but he shone during the penalty shots. He made me remember Serguo Goicoechea in 1990. He’s stepped up whenever he’s been needed. I would like to see him go into the field a bit more, though, it looks like they’ve chained him to the goal.”
“And what about Javier Mascherano? We wouldn’t have gotten this far if it weren’t for him. He gave Arjen Robben one hell of a fight, he was on top of him the entire time. Thanks to him, the defense and goalee can relax a bit, because, if anyone manages to get past him, they’re already dead-tired,” Nivaldo adds.
Brayan, who has never seen Argentina get this far in a World Cup because he is only 20, is worried: Germany looks very strong this year and he doesn’t know how they can be stopped. “We need Messi to wake up. If he doesn’t, they’re going to raze us to the ground.”
“As long as the defense keeps playing this way,” Conrado opines, “I’m not too worried. Argentina has a lot of talent in their offense, they just need to use it. I think Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and “Kun” (Sergio Aguero) are going to play their best at the final.”
“Yeah, but don’t forget Germany is different than every team they’ve faced till now. Holland was all about Robben, Belgium was about Eden Hazard and Switzerland about Zerdan Shaqiri. It’s different with Germany because they have a lot of offensive strategies and there’s just too many players to guard,” Yorbis maintains.
“That’s true,” Julio Cesar replies. “That’s why we need Messi to be in good shape and the forwards to be in gear. That way, Germany will have to worry about defense and they won’t be able to send everyone out for a goal. For me, the key is going to be Argentina’s forwards. If they manage to put the heat on Germany’s defense – they’re very tall, but slow – then there’s a chance for Argentina.”
The joy among fans of the white and sky-blue team was immense. Many headed for nearby bars after coming out of the theater, as others likely did elsewhere in the country. They have a tough final ahead of them, but there’ll be time to think about that later – now, they are simply enjoying this great victory.
In contrast, the hundreds of thousands of Brazil’s fans in Cuba were left profoundly disappointed the day before following a humiliating defeat at the hands of Germany, the most severe the green and yellow team has ever suffered.
After Germany scored 5 goals in a mere half hour, and the many followers of the Canarinha began to file out of the packed Yara theater.
Nearly all who stayed until the end are admirers of the Teutonic team. They are not few in numbers, but they come nowhere near their rivals that day.
“This is shameful,” Yury told me. “The team wasn’t playing well, but we were confident they would get into shape in the semifinals and with the support of the public.”
“It was a pipe-dream, that’s all,” Sebastian said to me. “You could see it coming. Without Neymar and Thiago Silva, only we were stupid enough to believe they stood a chance against the Germans.”
“That’s not it, bro,” replied Emilio. “The problem is that they played like a kid’s team. It could just as well been Cuba playing Germany and not Brazil. The defense was pitiful; the Germans did just about everything they wanted with them, passing the ball around as though they were playing an amateur game. I’ve never seen Brazil play so poorly.”
“You’re starting to miss Ronaldinho, eh?” Yosuan interjects. “I’ve been saying it from the beginning. You can’t win a game relying on Neymar alone. The Confederaciones Cup is one thing and the World Cup quite another. Last year, they had no pressure on them, they had fired the previous coach. But the World Cup is too much for them and those players aren’t prepared for it. We saw it when they played Chile. When they got to the penalty shots, they started crying. They beat Colombia in two plays, but we never saw a good game through and through.”
Germany’s fans were ecstatic. “Justice will at last be done this time around. Germany couldn’t win in 2010 in Berlin. Now, they’re going to show us they can, no matter who the rival is,” Eugenio affirmed.
Raydel, another die-hard fan of German soccer, added he felt sorry for Brazil’s team, which fell apart completely after the second goal and was unable to score until the end of the game, when they were already losing 7 to 0.
“We’ll meet again here on Sunday,” one fan yelled to another, waving the black, red and yellow flag over his head.
The duel is set. This Sunday, the Yara will be filled up with the colors of Argentina and Germany.