Argentina defender Pablo Zabaleta would love nothing more than to win the World Cup in the spiritual home of Brazilian football.
When the World Cup draw was made last December, South American football fans dreamed of a Maracana final involving the continent’s two super powers.
But instead of facing Brazil in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night, Argentina will instead take on Germany, who obliterated Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men in the first semi-final on Tuesday.
Brazilians and Argentina have been bitter rivals ever since the beautiful game was brought to the continent by Englishman Charles Miller in 1894.
Argentina detest the fact that Brazil have won three more World Cups than them. There is a never-ending debate in the two countries about who was better – Pele or Diego Maradona – and this summer Neymar and Lionel Messi were branded as big rivals for the Golden Boot.
Local fans in Sao Paulo were firmly against Argentina in their semi-final against Holland on Wednesday – and that has been the case throughout the tournament.
But such vitriol against the old enemy has been counter-productive as it has only served to fire the Argentinians up during the tournament, according to Zabaleta.
“It’s special for us to play in this country,” the Manchester City defender said.
“Especially because Brazilian fans have been against Argentina for this World Cup.
“Sometimes, if you have all the people against you, you feel even stronger. I think that we showed that against Holland and we feel very proud to have made the final.”
Even though Argentina is next door to Brazil, some 1668 miles separate Rio de Janeiro from Buenos Aires.
That has not stopped thousands of Albiceleste supporters driving to Rio, many of them in camper vans that are parked along the central reservation on the Avenida Atlantica next to the Copacabana.
And many more will flood the city this weekend in the hope that they will watch history unfold before their eyes.
“You can imagine people from Argentina selling their cars to come here, even without tickets,” Zabaleta added.
“This is something that happens in Argentina.
“We love football. We know how special it would be for this country to win another World Cup.
“But obviously we appreciate how Argentinian fans are doing everything to support the team. As a player I feel very proud, everyone feels very proud. Hopefully we can give them another trophy.”