Their team succumbed to Germany on the pitch, but everywhere in Rio, Argentina was winning.


They flooded the cities of their rival—an estimated 100,000 Argentines were in Rio for the World Cup Final on Sunday. They came in caravans and campers and old taxis and whatever could bring them from their homes in Rosário, La Pampa, Santa Fé, Santa Rosa, Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Mendoza. They slept and ate and screwed and drank and maybe even tangoed at their temporary home at the Samba-drome, a concrete dance pavilion where they had been sequestered for the city’s safety and their own.

In Buenos Aires after the loss, Argentina rioted a little, but in Rio, the loyal fans took their loss in peace. Photographer Eduardo Leal spent the last weeks following the Argentines’ journey through the tournament, from the early tight games to the final wundervolley that sank them. There were other fervent fans that made a showing, from Iranians to Chileans, but for sheer determination, emotion, and size of pilgrimage, the supporters of La Albiceleste would clearly deserve this tournament’s Golden Winnebago, if such a thing existed.

Fans behind a flag with Diego Maradona’s image on it.
A worried supporter during Argentina’s taut match with Switzerland.
An Argentina fan dressed as Pope Francis.
Argentines camp in front of the arch of the Sambadrome–normally Rio’s gathering place for public samba performances and festivals.
Argentine, in repose.
Inside an Argentine camper.
Pitching tents beside the concrete center of the Sambadrome.
The Argentines set up a mobile city in Rio in advance of the final.
Celebrating the penalty shootout victory over the Netherlands.
After the final penalty, which sent Argentina through to the final.
Anxious fans as Switzerland-Argentina neared the end of extra time, with no score.
And then, suddenly, Angel Di Maria scored the winning goal.
Argentina’s low-scoring, heavy-defense style made for anxious games throughout, like this one against Switzerland.
Pensive at the final.
Fans celebrate Higuaín’s goal, which was disallowed.
Reacting to Higuaín’s offsides call.
Worry in extra time with Germany.
Reacting to Germany’s goal deep into extra time.
After the final: the aftermath on Copacabana Beach in Rio.