Why Brazilians Are Rooting for Germany in the World Cup Final

The 2014 World Cup final is underway, and fans have declared their loyalty by painting their faces and shouting their lungs out. Among those fans: Brazilians rooting for Germany to win it all over Argentina. The approach seems unorthodox at best after the German team frankly embarrassed the tournament's host country in the semifinals on Tuesday, scoring seven goals to Brazil's one. So this might take a bit of explaining. (And no, it has nothing to do with which pope is more popular in Brazil.)

In truth, Brazilian fans aren't cheering for Germany so much as they're rooting against Argentina, their bitterest rival in all of sportsdom. It may seem odd to anyone not from the region that the two countries would turn on each other. After all, if your team got knocked out of its most important sporting event in such a humiliating fashion, wouldn't you want the squad that beat you to be defeated by a country that's at least on your own continent? After all, Brazil and Argentina are neighbors with no diplomatic or economic conflicts to work through.

Clearly you don't understand futbol. The rivalry's roots don't lie in politics or history, but plain old cultural stereotype. The Washington Post's Ishaan Tharoor explains:

Argentines have a regional reputation for arrogance and European pretension, a legacy of mass European immigration in the early 20th century at a time when Argentina's economy was one of the world's most robust and dynamic.

There have been a few reports of Argentine fans in Brazil engaging in racist behavior. The specter of racism often shadows the heated clashes between Brazilian and Argentine club sides, which even without that sort of animosity frequently boil over into violence.

In fact, no one in South America seems to actively want Argentina to win: a New York Times survey of Central and South American soccer fans showed that Argentina is the country that fans in the region are most likely to root against . And although many of Brazil's South American neighbors are still hoping for defeat for Germany, they're only doing so out of a grudging continental solidarity.

Even if it's alone on its continent, Brazil is apparently in the majority worldwide. According to a New York Times analysis of Facebook activity during the entire tournament, allegiances across the globe have slowly shifted toward the German squad as more teams have been knocked out of the running. Worldwide, about 55 percent of fans support Germany in the final. And Facebook users in Brazil? A whopping 71 percent of them support a German win. Maybe we could all learn a lesson from Brazilian soccer fans: even when someone completely destroys you, it's best to forgive and forget. Especially if there's a chance that someone will destroy your bitterest enemies, too.