The Argentina players cut dejected figures as they waited to collect their medals at the end of Sunday’s Final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Yet as Alejandro Sabella’s men wiped away the tears triggered by their narrow defeat to Germany, their compatriots back home gathered en masse in streets up and down the land to express their gratitude.
The epicentre was Avenida 9 de Julio in Buenos Aires, a traditional setting for the nation’s sporting celebrations, though anyone unaware of the scoreline could have almost have been forgiven for thinking La Albiceleste had won, such was the upbeat mood in the air.
“It’s a lovely touch obviously,” said Sergio Aguero, speaking exclusively to FIFA.com, on hearing of the celebrations in Argentina. “Getting that kind of recognition gives us the strength to overcome the sadness we’re feeling right now. I honestly can’t put into words how thankful I am for their support and their affection.”
One of the players to win over the ever-demanding Argentina fans during the course of Brazil 2014 was Sergio Romero, whose place in the side was questioned by some at the start of the tournament.
Having answered the doubters in style, the composed goalkeeper told FIFA: “I’ve been saying for days that we’re the ones who should be applauding the fans. They’ve stuck by us and supported us, and a lot of them came without a ticket just to give us their positive energy. All we needed to make everyone happy was the Cup.”
Aguero, who came on at the start of the second half and has now gone two World Cups without scoring, then explained why he believes the team have earned the devotion of the fans.
“It’s down to our commitment,” said the Manchester City man. “Today we went out and played another great game for 120 minutes, and I think we did enough to win. We created some clear-cut chances but we just couldn’t put them away.”
Romero agreed: “It’s very hard to come back from a goal like that, right at the end of extra-time, but we gave our all on the pitch. Our objective was to take Argentina back to the top and we did that. And what’s more, I think we can go and do it again in the near future.”
Looking on the bright sidePrior to Mario Gotze’s extra-time winner, Romero had gone 486 minutes without conceding a goal, the third-longest unbeaten stretch in World Cup history behind Walter Zenga’s 571 minutes for Italy and Peter Shilton’s 499 for England.
“What stood out was the team’s workrate,” added the keeper. “The side grew in stature with each game. It responded well, kept its shape and tried to get more people into attack than just the forwards. The players up front helped the midfielders, and the midfielders helped the defenders, and vice versa. We’ve had a great World Cup.”
“We were so close and that makes it hard to take,” commented Aguero, trying his best to put his disappointment to one side. “We need to keep pushing on and try to think positively. We’re feeling sad now, but as the days go by we should start taking some satisfaction from the World Cup we’ve played.”
Romero, who was up for the adidas Golden Glove award and said Manuel Neuer was a deserving winner, ended on an optimistic note: “I think we can build on this. There are some young players in this squad who showed plenty of quality and personality, and who weren’t weighed down by the shirt. We achieved our objective of getting Argentina in the top four, which is why we’re going home with our heads held high, even if we’re not smiling.”