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Jul 13, 2014

Riot police, fans clash in Argentina

Argentina fans clashed with riot police in Buenos Aires after the World Cup final on Sunday night.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets late Sunday to restrain a group of vandals who disturbed a peaceful rally celebrating Argentina's gutsy performance in a 1-0 defeat to Germany in the World Cup final.

Parents with small children could be seen fleeing in fear after police, who initially remained on the sidelines as jubilant fans poured into downtown Buenos Aires, began chasing down the vandals on motorcycles.

The youths, many of them with their faces covered and drinking heavily, responded by hurling rocks, destroying store fronts and breaking into a theater.

Police said 20 officers were injured and at least 60 people were arrested. The vandals tore down street lights and ripped up the stone from some streets to throw at officers.

Thousands of fans watched their team peacefully in Buenos Aires before riot police were needed to disperse the crowd.

The disturbances in Buenos Aires came after thousands of Argentines gathered peacefully at the Obelisk with families and neighbors to applaud Argentina's best World Cup performance in 24 years.

Cars honked staccato rhythms, firecrackers were tossed into the air and fans of all ages jumped in place shouting "Argentina! Argentina! Argentina!" with barely a tear in sight.

"We have nothing to regret, we played first rate," said 53-year-old Horacio Laseiras, carrying his six-year-old daughter on his shoulders.

Amid the outpouring of gratitude, there was a hint of frustration that Lionel Messi, the four-time world player of the year, didn't turn in a stronger performance.

"Messi still isn't Maradona," said 31-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez, referring to Diego Maradona, who lifted the championship trophy for Argentina in 1986 and led the Albiceleste to their last World Cup final, against West Germany in 1990. "But this here is a party. We're all proud of our warriors."

A crowd of about 20,000 people filled the capital's Plaza San Martin to watch the match on a giant screen, climbing atop lamp posts to get a better view and shouting every time the team entered German area.

"I feel an enormous sadness," 19-year-old Soledad Canelas, carrying a blue-and-white Argentine flag, said after the game. "I had the illusion of seeing Argentina become champion for the first time in my life."

In Germany, a quarter of a million fans reacted with unbridled joy, mixed with shock, when Mario Gotze struck late in extra time.

The supporters, packed into the "fan mile" in front of the German capital's famous Brandenburg Gate, screamed as one when Goetze took the ball on his chest and let fly inside the far post from a narrow angle.

Fans cheered, clapped and shouted, with groups of fans hugging and jumping into the air together, making so much noise the commentary on the large screens could no longer be heard. Flares illuminated the stage and sent plumes of smoke into the sky.

"We're going to be world champions! We're going to be world champions!" yelled the compere of the public viewing event, even before the second period of extra time was over in Brazil.

Cars drivers blasted their horns, whooped and yelled, before captain Philipp Lahm had even lifted the trophy at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium.

Once he did, a massive fireworks display took place around the Brandenburg Gate, where fans had begun gathering six hours before kickoff.

"They made it exciting," Leon Tober of Fuerstenwalde, east of Berlin. "It was a long wait, especially after twice coming third. It's great for the young generation. They're a super troupe of players. They can go on now and win even more."

News agency dpa reported that a man was stabbed and later died from his injuries at a public viewing event in a cinema in the northern city of Bremen.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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