Argentina, Brazil overcoming rivalry, but not in football

Argentina, Brazil overcoming rivalry, but not in football

Friday, July 11, 2014 3:11 am

by Liliana SAMUEL

BUENOS AIRES – Argentina and Brazil, South America’s rival giants, have been getting over their mutual mistrust in recent years, but their newfound spirit of friendship definitely does not extend to football.Brazil fan

Fans from both sides had dreamed the World Cup would end with a mega-showdown against the team they most love to hate.

But Brazil’s humiliating exit from their own World Cup has forced the old enemies back to years gone by in their animosity.

Brazilian fans left their green and yellow jerseys in the closet Wednesday to put on Dutch orange as Argentina played the Netherlands in the semi-finals.

And the Brazilian press is predicting they will deck themselves out in German white for Sunday’s final, even though Germany are the team that crushed their hopes of winning the Cup on home soil with a brutal 7-1 semi-final defeat Tuesday.

Argentine fans for their part have adopted a new anthem to goad the hosts: “Brazil, tell me what it feels like to have your daddy in your house!”

But off the pitch, relations between the two countries have never been better than in the past decade.

Torn apart through much of their history by territorial disputes inherited from their colonial rulers — Portugal for Brazil, Spain for Argentina — and rival bids for continental supremacy, the countries have recently gravitated toward economic integration and tighter ties.

Ex-presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, both leftists who came to power in 2003, sealed a political alliance and personal friendship that has continued under their hand-picked successors, Dilma Rousseff and the deceased Kirchner’s wife Cristina.

The rapprochement has boosted Mercosur, the customs union they belong to with Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, and underpinned the 2008 launch of Unasur, a pan-South American political bloc.

“It’s phenomenal how relations have changed, seen from the perspective of the past 25 years,” Argentine sociologist Atilio Boron told AFP.

– ‘Marriage of convenience’ –

But the relationship is not always simple, or balanced.

“The alliance between Brazil and Argentina is a little like a marriage of convenience,” added Boron.

“There’s convenience for the sake of (economic) integration. The most sophisticated Brazilian intellectuals say that Brazil, a leader in Latin America, can’t face today’s biggest global challenges alone.”

Brazil has the bigger economy — the world’s seventh largest, with GDP of $2.4 trillion last year.

It also comes out ahead in trade ties.

In 2013, trade between the two countries topped $36 billion — with a balance of $3.15 billion in favor of Brazil.

Eighty percent of their trade is in automobiles, the main engine of Argentina’s revival since its 2001 economic collapse.

But despite the renewal of a bilateral auto trade deal last month, the tough global economy has hit car sales on both sides of the border, and two-way trade fell 20 percent in the first half of 2014.

The countries’ original auto trade deal was the embryo that grew into Mercosur in 1991.

Argentina currently exports 86 percent of its vehicles to Brazil, its largest trade partner.

Brazil’s largest trade partners are the US and China, with Argentina in third place.

Argentina, whose economy is 26th in the world, has not enjoyed the same emerging market buzz as Brazil in recent years.

Next week it will take a seat beside Brazil at a summit of the BRICS group — emerging market heavyweights Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

But Argentina — which is not a member of the group — was invited by Russia, not its neighbor.

– Last laugh? –

On the pitch, however, Argentina may get the last laugh.

While Brazil have won more World Cups — five to two — Argentina have won the Copa America, the South American championships, 14 times to Brazil’s eight.

And they are the ones playing Sunday’s final in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium, the home of Brazilian football.

An Argentine win would add to the humiliation Brazil suffered in the legendary arena the last time they hosted the World Cup, in 1950, when they lost the final to Uruguay — a fellow neighbor.

Brazil for their part play the Netherlands on Saturday in the loathed third-place playoff.

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