RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Thousands of Argentine football fans gathered on the golden sands of Copacabana beach gasped and then fell into silence when Germany scored a stunning extra-time goal to claim the World Cup title on Sunday.
More than 70,000 Argentina fans packed into Rio de Janeiro in recent days, many traveling upward of 40 hours by car and seemingly all wearing their team’s sky-blue jerseys and chanting day and night.
“This was a trauma. We were going to be able to leave singing songs in victory with the glory of the Cup,” said Joao Cuenca, who has an Argentine father and a Brazilian mother. “What happened is nothing short of a disaster.”
Cuenca spoke from the FIFA Fan Fest area on Copacabana beach, where 20,000 people, mostly Argentine, stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of a giant TV screen to watch the final.
Some isolated fights broke out both on Copacabana beach and in the area outside the Maracana stadium where the match was played. The scuffles appeared to involve young Brazilian and Argentine men — bitter rivals on and off the pitch.
Police responded quickly. There was a heavy security presence around the stadium and across Rio for the entire day. More than 25,000 police and soldiers were on guard just for the game, according to officials, providing the biggest security detail in Brazilian history.
Daniel Brauner, a 28-year-old student from Hamburg, was one of the few German revelers on the beach.
“I can’t realize it still. I am very happy of course but I didn’t expect for it to be so close,” he said, wiping sweat from his brow with the corner of a German flag after his country’s 1-0 win. “I was expecting 3-1 for Germany. I suffered, the whole match I suffered.”
German fan Marten Caesar, downing beers in celebration with compatriots at a bar just outside the Maracana, said “this final was a real final.”
“One goal and that’s it. Defense wins tonight and our defense proved it,” he said. “They neutralized Messi and Messi was a mess.”
Inside the stadium, world leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose nation will host the 2018 World Cup, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were sitting in the stands with FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter, watching some pre-match entertainment.
With Brazil roundly praised for how it has staged the tournament, considered by many fans to be among the most exciting in recent decades, authorities were taking no chances of anything ruining their big day.
Around the Maracana, where 74,000 spectators crammed in for the final, lines of security forces wearing camouflage uniforms and carrying rifles stood watch. Roads were closed and military helicopters buzzed overhead, with Brazilian authorities still wary about violent protests that marred last year’s Confederations Cup warm-up event.
Several hundred protesters gathered at a plaza near Maracana a few hours before kickoff, and clashed with police as they neared security perimeters set up roughly 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from the stadium. Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the march. At the end of the demonstration, police unleashed the stun grenades gratuitously on a small group of protesters and journalists, and were seen beating some with night sticks. At least one photographer received minor injuries.
For the Brazilian fans, the football ended in disappointment with a 7-1 rout at the hands of the Germans in the semifinals, but the tournament has been hailed as a great success.
“We did ok, yes?” said a Brazilian walking around the outskirts of the Maracana wearing his team’s canary-yellow shirt.
Associated Press writer Alan Clendenning and AP Sports Writers Gerald Imray and Stephen Wade contributed to this report.