While the world watched Brazil implode in a 7-1 blowout loss against Germany on Tuesday, Luis Belaustegui, an Argentine who has lived in the United States for 20 years, watched the match with family and friends while on vacation in Argentina to see which team his home country will face in the final.
Yes, even before Argentina’s match Wednesday against the Netherlands.
Belaustegui, a Spanish professor and director of the language resource center at UMKC, said many people in Argentina are already planning to watch their team in the final.
“Everybody is betting that we win against Holland,” he said in a phone conversation.
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Argentina’s last World Cup championship came in 1986, when Diego Maradona helped lead the team to a 3-2 victory over West Germany. Argentina hasn’t made it to the World Cup final since 1990, when it lost 1-0 to West Germany.
Belaustegui, like many other people with an interest in the World Cup, said he had hoped to see the two rival teams from South America face each other in the final.
“It seems like Brazil without Neymar is a better opponent than Germany,” he said before Tuesday’s semifinal match. “Germany is a very strong team.”
Still, Argentina has to make it through the semifinals first.
Belaustegui said he and his family plan to watch the match against the Netherlands at their home in Argentina, where they will eat, watch the game and “yell at the TV.”
While it may be noisy inside the house, outside Belaustegui said the streets will be very quiet.
“It’s beautiful, it’s beautiful because everybody is very much into it,” he said. “You don’t see people walking down the street, no cars move, everybody is watching the game. It is very, very intense.”
The only time people are heard from the street, he said, is when Argentina scores a goal or wins.
With so much focus on soccer in Argentina, from the outside one might think that’s all they talk about.
But that’s not necessarily the case, according to Belaustegui. There is a rule during the World Cup, an unspoken one of sorts.
During dinner, he said, there are three things they don’t talk about: politics, religion and soccer.
“Because if we do, we end up fighting,” he said.
And while the Argentina team is always the main focus during a World Cup year, Belaustegui said many Argentines keep an eye on the entire tournament.
Belaustegui also kept an eye on Kansas City. When he heard about the size of the crowds that turned out at the Power & Light District, he was impressed.
“That was great,” he said.
Through all of the soccer — or non-soccer — dinner talk, Belaustegui, while “very, very excited” to watch the match, said that the game means more to the people of his home country than it does to him.
“People here, they get very, very emotional about (soccer,) but I don’t,” he said. “Seeing everybody happy makes me happy, so it’s very good.”