SAO PAULO (AP) — After their own World Cup hopes fell apart in the most humiliating way, Brazilians must now grapple with the prospect that things could get even worse.
Argentina could win.
After beating the Netherlands in a shootout Wednesday, Brazil's football archrival is now tantalizingly close to winning the World Cup for the first time since Diego Maradona lifted the trophy in 1986.
To many Brazilians, Argentina becoming world champion on Brazilian soil would be the worst imaginable ending to the monthlong tournament.
"We have a rule: we always go against the Argentines," said Izabele Chiamolere, a 39-year-old physician from Sao Paulo. Like most Brazilians who attended Wednesday's semifinal, she cheered for the Netherlands.
Or rather, against Argentina.
Chiamolere said that on the train to the Itaquerao Stadium before the game, Argentine fans were already taunting Brazilians with a song that's become their anthem at this World Cup.
With a melody based on "Bad Moon Rising," the song asks Brazilians how it feels to know that Argentina will dominate Brazil in its own backyard, that Messi will lift the cup and that "Maradona is greater than Pele."
When the Argentine fans first arrived in Brazil with their Lionel Messi shirts, pope masks and funny hats, Brazilians tended to just laugh along with this song. Now it's starting to get under the skin for some people.
"If the Argentines win they will become very annoying," said Giselle Giannocco, a 40-year-old professor of physiology from the Federal University of Sao Paulo.
At the heart of this intense South American rivalry is the competition between two giants of world football and the never-ending bickering over which player was greater, Pele or Maradona.
But it goes deeper than that.
Brazilians and Argentines get along in general and relations between the two countries are good — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff picked Argentina for her first foreign trip after being elected. Still, Chiamolere claimed, Argentines have a reputation of acting arrogantly toward their neighbors on the continent.