Argentine fans invade enemy territory in Brazil
Rio de Janeiro: Argentina fans are sending out a confident message to bitter rivals Brazil by arriving en masse to the scene of the World Cup final even if it costs thousands of dollars for the privilege.
The Argentines begin their campaign against Bosnia on Sunday at Rio`s famed Maracana stadium, where the July 13 final will also be held.
And on the day before the crunch Group F clash, fans flooded the principal tourist sites dotted along Rio`s famous coastline.
Whether up by Christ the Redeemer, perched on the Sugar Loaf or spread out along Copacabana beach, fans dressed in sky-blue and white could be seen enjoying the build-up to their game, chanting "Vamos, vamos Argentina".
"This is our first visit to Rio. The next one will be on July 13 for the final," said 35-year-old Fernando.
"Coming to a beautiful city like Rio de Janeiro and being able to join Argentina in the Maracana in their first World Cup match is something special," added the River Plate fan.
The Corcovado mountain, from where the Christ the Redeemer statue dominates the skyline for miles around, was decked out in figures wearing the national team jersey, as well as those of Argentine club sides River, Racing, Independiente and Avellaneda.
However, they weren`t alone as fans of opponents Bosnia, as well as France, Belgium, Ecuador, Mexico and others jostled for prime "selfie" positions in front of the statue.
On Sunday, Argentina fans are expected to greatly outnumber their Bosnian counterparts in the 78,838-capacity Maracana, a portent perhaps of things to come a month from now when one of the most iconic stadiums in the world will host the sport`s most prestigious match.
But even just being a part of festivities for the group stages has not come cheap for Brazil`s neighbours.
Tourist packages from Buenos Aires for Argentina`s first match start from between $3,500 and $4,300 dollars and almost all have been sold, according to the Argentine press.
That may seem like a lot but in some ways could work out to be the cheap option for Argentine `hinchas` (fans) given that match-day tickets are expected to fetch up to $2,000 on the black market on Sunday.
The buying and selling internet site, Mercado Libre (open market) has tickets on sale from a minimum of 5,000 Argentine pesos ($600).
Such prices are unlikely to put off the citizens of such a football-mad country, though, with around 50,000 expected to make the pilgrimage to Argentina`s base camp at Cidade do Galo in the Minas Gerais state.
There will also be large numbers at their June 21 group match against Iran in Belo Horizonte and their final pool outing against Nigeria on June 25 in Porto Alegre in the south-east of Brazil.
That could even see the greatest sky blue invasion of all with the city located a `mere` 1,000km from Buenos Aires.