Riots rock Argentina after loss to Germany in World Cup final

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Riots rock Argentina after loss to Germany in World Cup final
Soccer fans try to escape from a tear gas cloud and a police water cannon, used to restrain a group of youths who hurled rocks and vandalized stores, at a rally after Argentina's performance in a 1-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup finals, Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Police said more than a dozen officers were injured and many more were arrested. (AP Photo/Victor Carreira)
Police officers detain several men after riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons to restrain a group of youths who hurled rocks and vandalized store fronts at a rally to celebrate Argentina’s gutsy performance in a 1-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup finals, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Police said more than a dozen officers were injured and many more were arrested. The chaotic situation marred what was an otherwise spontaneous gathering of support for Argentina’s national team after its best World Cup run in 24 years. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
Police officers detain several men after riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons to restrain a group of youths who hurled rocks and vandalized store fronts at a rally after Argentina’s performance in a 1-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup finals, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Police said more than a dozen officers were injured and many more were arrested. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
Police officers detain a man after riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons to restrain a group of youths who hurled rocks and vandalized store fronts at a rally to celebrate Argentina’s gutsy performance in a 1-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup finals, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, July 13, 2014. The chaotic situation marred what was an otherwise spontaneous gathering of support for Argentina’s national team after its best World Cup run in 24 years. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
Under cover police officers detain a man who is flashing a "V" sign, after riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons to restrain a group of youths who hurled rocks and vandalized store fronts at a rally to celebrate Argentina’s gutsy performance in a 1-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup finals, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, July 13, 2014. The chaotic situation marred what was an otherwise spontaneous gathering of support for Argentina’s national team after its best World Cup run in 24 years. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
Under cover police officers detain a man after riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons to restrain a group of youths who hurled rocks and vandalized store fronts at a rally to celebrate Argentina’s gutsy performance in a 1-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup finals, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, July 13, 2014. Police said more than a dozen officers were injured and many more were arrested. The chaotic situation marred what was an otherwise spontaneous gathering of support for Argentina’s national team after its best World Cup run in 24 years. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)
A demonstrator returns a tear gas canister at riot police attempting to disperse demonstrators outside the legislature in Neuquen, Argentina, Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. Lawmakers are preparing to debate the controversial agreement between Argentina's state owned oil company YPF and Chevron, for joint exploitation of a major unconventional hydrocarbon reservoir, despite opposition from the native Mapuche community members and environmentalists. (AP Photo/DyN)
A demonstrator destroys turnstiles during riots at Once railway station in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. The discovery of a 51st victim Friday two days after Argentina's deadliest train wreck in decades left the man's family devastated and prompted rock-throwing and other violence by protesters holding vigil at the scene. Riot police responded with tear gas and batons, clearing the station and making arrests. (AP Photo/Alberto Raggio, DyN)
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - JULY 13: Police fire tear gas at Argentine soccer fans that turned violent near the Obelisco de Buenos Aires after their team lost to Germany 1-0 during the World Cup final on July 13, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Germany won their fourth World Cup in the final match played in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - JULY 13: Police use a water canon and fire tear gas at Argentine soccer fans that turned violent near the Obelisco de Buenos Aires after their team lost to Germany 1-0 during the World Cup final on July 13, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Germany won their fourth World Cup in the final match played in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - JULY 13: Argentine soccer fans are shrowded in a cloud of tear gas as the police try to control the crowd that turned violent near the Obelisco de Buenos Aires after their team lost to Germany 1-0 during the World Cup final on July 13, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Germany won their fourth World Cup in the final match played in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - JULY 13: Police use a water canon and fire tear gas at Argentine soccer fans that turned violent near the Obelisco de Buenos Aires after their team lost to Germany 1-0 during the World Cup final on July 13, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Germany won their fourth World Cup in the final match played in Rio de Janeiro. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a group of rock-throwing vandals who disturbed a rally by Argentines celebrating their team's gutsy performance in a 1-0 loss to Germany in the World Cup finals.

Thousands of Argentines, saddened but proud, had gathered peacefully at the iconic Obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires to applaud their team's best World Cup performance in 24 years.

Police initially remained on the sidelines as fans poured into downtown Buenos Aires. But late Sunday night they began chasing down vandals. The youths, many of them with their faces covered and drinking heavily, responded by hurling rocks, destroying store fronts, tearing down street lights and even breaking into a theater.

Parents with small children could be seen fleeing in fear. Police said 20 officers were injured and at least 60 people were arrested.

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The chaotic situation marred what was an otherwise spontaneous show of support for Argentina's national team.

The center of festivities was the Obelisk, where fans traditionally gather to celebrate victory, not defeat. Cars honked staccato rhythms, firecrackers were tossed into the air and fans of all ages jumped in place shouting "Argentina! Argentina! Argentina!"

"We have nothing to regret, we played first rate," said 53-year-old Horacio Laseiras, carrying his six-year-old daughter on his shoulders.

The two-time world champion entered the title match as the clear underdog after Germany's 7-1 thrashing of host Brazil. But despite complaints about lackluster play earlier in the tournament, the team led by captain Lionel Messi showed grit throughout the match, creating several opportunities to score in the first 90 minutes.

Amid the outpouring of gratitude, there was a hint of frustration that Messi, the four-time world player of the year, didn't turn in a stronger performance.

"Messi still isn't Maradona," said 31-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez, referring to Diego Maradona, who lifted the championship trophy for Argentina in 1986 and led the 'albiceleste' to its last World Cup final, also against Germany, in 1990. "But this here is a party. We're all proud of our warriors."

In Argentina's capital, about 20,000 people dressed in the blue and white colors of the country's flag filled the capital's Plaza San Martin to watch the match on a giant screen, climbing atop lamp posts to get a better view.

"I feel an enormous sadness," Soledad Canelas, 19, said after the game. "I had the illusion of seeing Argentina become champion for the first time in my life."

The shot at the title united Argentines otherwise exasperated by one of the world's highest inflation rates, an encroaching debt crisis and a corruption scandal that has penetrated deep into President Cristina Fernandez's inner circle.

Fernandez, whose approval rating has plunged in recent months, kept a low profile during the tournament. She declined an invitation to attend the final, preferring instead to rest ahead of a summit Tuesday, also in Brazil, with leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and China.

She didn't comment on the team's loss but local media reported she had called head coach Alejandro Sabella to offer her support and is planning to welcome the team home on Monday morning.

Despite the pride over their team's performance, many Argentines couldn't hide the pain.

In Rio de Janeiro, more than 70,000 Argentina fans cheered on their team, many having traveled 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."


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