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Argentina

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Argentina vs. Brazil
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For a day, Argentine fans took over Rio's iconic Maracana

Maracana felt like home for Argentina's national team in their World Cup opener against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Maracana felt like home for Argentina's national team in their World Cup opener against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Intelligence. That's what the Brazilian fans used in the first game of the Argentine national team in the World Cup. Just when it seemed that the team of Lionel Messi would be quite the local in the Maracana against Bosnia-Herzegovina, a surprise ally appeared for the Europeans: thousands of supporters strategically located throughout the stadium put up a beautiful "fan war" against the Argentines.

Just as Belo Horizonte was tinted Colombian yellow last Saturday, Rio de Janeiro on Sunday was awash with blue and white jerseys and flags. Tens of thousands of Argentine fans came to the carioca capital to accompany their national team to its World Cup debut, where for the first time ever, it could feel like the local in the home of the classic adversary.

Copacabana, Ipanema and Barra didn't have the usual tourists with flowery, colorful shorts, but were rather invaded by Argentine supporters. From Ushuaia to La Quiaca they arrived to support the national team, who debuted in the World Cup with a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Bosnia. Fans were observed from all the clubs, from Boca and River to Dock Sud, passing through Chacarita, Chicago, Merlo and Temperley. No one missed the party in this home away from home.

When we climbed up into the stands of the huge Mario Filho stadium -- better known as Maracana -- everything indicated you'd see a blue and white fiesta, that the team coached by Alejandro Sabella would be quite the local. There were balloons, confetti and all the usual party supplies in Buenos Aires. They chanted for Messi, for Maradona and because they're going to be champions like in '86. This was River Plate's Monumental in Rio de Janeiro.

The singing of the national anthem was, as usual, one of the most emotional moments of the day. It's impossible not to try to describe the thrill that you feel of living your country's national anthem in a World Cup, the chords that accompany you from kindergarten. You try to describe those feelings but you can't, because it's something you have to live, period. The particular way in which the first passages of the anthem are sung thundered in the stands and gave a shot of encouragement to the players, who scored the first goal at three minutes.

But first, just as Messi and Sergio Agüero gave the kickoff, the unexpected occurred. A cataract of whistling fell on the field at the Maracana. Yes, the booing drowned out the applause that's always generated when a game begins. What happened? Many asked themselves. Do the people mistakenly think that those in blue are the Argentines? No, nothing like that. Thousands of Brazilians came out of hiding and made their presence known.

"They're not going to get away with it on our own turf" may have been the thinking of the ideologue of this magnificent strategic move. There were groups of supporters throughout the stadium, placed with precision to generate a perfect counterpoint to the huge number of Argentines. Most were dressed in green-yellow, which also gave the game a very aesthetic framework.

One might think that having Argentines and Brazilians together in the same stands, without any separation, could generate conflicts or incidents. More so if the hosts celebrated each of Bosnia's actions as if it were their own national team. However, except for some isolated conflict, the 90 minutes passed by peacefully. We'll have to see what happens in the next few days if this is repeated.

With the result given, you could say that both groups were satisfied. Those for Brazil because their most feared opponent didn't play well and repeated old mistakes, and those for Argentina because of the three points and the goal by Messi. In addition, everyone left with one hope: to find themselves again on this same field in the final. This World Cup deserves a mythical closure.

Damian Didonato

Damian Didonato is an ESPN.com Argentina editor based in Buenos Aires. He covered the U20 World Cup in Colombia in 2011 and blogs on O Blog 2014. Follow him on Twitter @damiandidonato.