SAO PAULO — You’d think a mind-bending 7-1 defeat might be all the midweek pain a fan base could incur, but no! There’s still more pain available out there.
Going into Wednesday, Brazil’s World Cup still retains the right to subject Brazilians to the harrowing sight of Argentina reaching the World Cup final on Brazilian soil. Even before Tuesday, some Brazilian fans said losing to Germany (albeit not 7-1) would be preferable to beating Germany and then losing to Argentina.
Of course, if the Netherlands could beat Argentina in the second semifinal here in Sao Paulo on Wednesday evening, Brazil would have the chance to lose to Germany and lose to Argentina…in the third-place game.
Nobody really thought about that.
Now that they have, they ought to cancel that thing.
When the Netherlands overcame Brazil 2-1 on a Friday in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals in South Africa, Brazilians reeled (although not as badly as today). On the next day, when Germany gave a 4-0 ransacking to an Argentina managed — some would say “managed” — by Diego Maradona, that caused a fine, festive Saturday night in Sao Paulo.
The Argentines have flooded Brazil, many of them driving halfway up the continent to be here, some of them living temporarily in their vehicles, many of them singing Brazil-derisive songs that make you glad for the language gap between the two. Now these people in light blue and white are behind one of the biggest themes still left: the notion that the great Lionel Messi could match Maradona and lead Argentina to a World Cup title.
For his never-ending part, Maradona did ply his trademark restraint to say before the World Cup that winning in Brazil would constitute an “orgasm.” It would help in this bid if the Manchester United-bound Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal would make a decision that doesn’t work, but of course he seems incapable of that. He even switched goalkeepers just before the penalties in the quarterfinal against Costa Rica. His jerk substitute ran around taunting the Costa Ricans, and we all can agree there’s nothing we all like less than a mouthy backup goalkeeper. Still, it worked.
Like Brazil and Germany, of course, Argentina and the Netherlands once played a World Cup final. Argentina won, 3-1, in 1978 in Buenos Aires — one of three World Cup occasions where the Netherlands reached the final and finished as runner-up. Viewing that had to be a bit painful for Brazilian fans back then. It was nothing compared to the prospect still afloat this haunted time.