Buenos Aires came to a halt on Tuesday to follow the Albiceleste’s debut match at the Qatar 2022 World Cup – but dreams soon turned to dismay for fans after Argentina’s 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia.
"We thought the first three matches would be an easy victory, and now it has become more complicated," Carlos Cuera told AFP, still sitting in front of a television at a café on Corrientes Street that quickly emptied of customers when the match ended.
"It was a walloping, a bucket of ice-cold water, and now Saturday's game against Mexico is another pressure," he said of Argentina's next opponents in Group C, which is completed by Poland.
The city quickly resumed its usual rhythm after two hours of porteños being frozen in front of television screens. The match, which was played at 7am local time, meant that the hustle and bustle of shops and offices was initially absent.
The capital is decked out in light blue and white, with flags in kiosks and windows. The mayor's office placed a giant ball in front of the Obelisk.
In central Corrientes street, not far from the city's towering centre-piece, one café had set up a screen on the sidewalk, prompting delivery men, taxis, and even bus drivers to slow as they passed – hoping for another goal.
Inside the café, office workers, salespeople and tourists had jumped out of their chairs and shouted in celebration when Messi scored Argentina's first goal in the 10th minute from the penalty spot.
They also launched a cataract of insults against the VAR automated referring system for two disallowed goals and suffered a second half "of terror," as Norberto Protzmann, a fan like many others who was disappointed by the defeat, put it.
"Argentina overplayed the game and the players were overconfident. On the other hand, the opponents put their lives into every play because they knew they were up against a big team and it worked out well for them," he concluded.
Gustavo Leal, a 75-year-old retired Boca Juniors fan, was more sympathetic. He felt the team had played "a very good first half, with many goal-scoring opportunities that were exciting."
"But the VAR played against us. Football with technology is no longer football. This World Cup lacks [Diego] Maradona," he said with a gesture, alluding to the legendary player who died in 2020.
Despite the defeat, Leal declared himself optimistic. "The first game is as difficult as the last, I still have confidence in him, [coach Lionel] Scaloni is a measured guy, who knows how to lead the team, I have a lot of hope," he said.
Ismael Rojas, one of the waiters who, like his colleagues, wore the Argentina shirt in a place decorated for the occasion, shook his head as the café emptied of customers.
"Argentina lacked depth, these guys played like they were conserving their energy and it was a game they should put everything into, that's how badly we played," he said.
by Sonia Avalos, AFP