Buenos Aires stops when the national team plays. Only a quarter of the city's taxis are running, train service is cut to a minimum, directors encourage professors to suspend classes and pedestrian
traffic on the streets is visibly depleted. You hear very few noises too, save for background TV commentary and the drone of a crowd somewhere in the distance. It's a bit eerie actually. According to
Roberto Fontanarrosa, a novelist and soccer critic, the performance of the national team inspires Argentines more than anything else: "We have politicians saying that Argentina is a part of the First
World, but this isn't reality. In soccer, however, we're in league with the world's best and our successes inspire pride in the country." And everyone remembers where they were four years ago when
Argentina drew 1-1 with Sweden to go home in the first round, the team's worst performance in its history. "It was terrible ... the game ended at 8 o'clock on a Friday morning," said a clothing store
salesman. "Everyone had to come into the shop, but we just couldn't work." This year, Argentina is performing much, much better, having reached the quarterfinals after beating Mexico in a thrilling,
hard-fought overtime match. It now plays host Germany on Friday, and has every reason to believe it can win it. Then again, so do the Germans.
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