Argentina

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The country

Argentina is the second largest country in South America, eighth largest in the world overall and a land of dramatic contrasts, featuring tropical forests, icy glaciers, sandy beaches, cold deserts and the imposing Andes mountains all competing for space within its borders.                                      Pride of place though probably belongs to the fertile lowland plains of the Pampas region, aka ‘cattle country.’ Here, Daisy and pals experience a high quality of life with optimum grazing conditions right up to the point where they’re ready to “graduate from bovine university”, a ceremony that makes liberal use of a high-voltage bolt gun and an industrial mincing machine. Unsurprisingly, given this ability to produce enormous quantities of beef, Argentines tend to eat a lot of the stuff. The average intake is around 60kg per person per year, a figure which will doubtless rise if they ever figure out a way of persuading those fussy cows to eat trees, ice, sand and the frozen corpses of Andean hikers.

There’s slightly more to Argentina than just steak though.                      Visitors to the country are often to be found knocking back a few of the wine region’s potent Malbecs and subsequently getting well acquainted with the cold, hard floor, or having a crack at the devilishly difficult Argentine Tango, with much the same result. Incidentally, the Tango originally developed as an ‘acting out of the pimp-prostitute relationship’ and represents ‘men competing for the sexual favours of a woman’, something worth bearing in mind the next time you see your doting parents/grandparents gliding across the dance floor on their anniversary. Yep, just ruined that image forever for you.

Demographically, Argentina is probably Latin America’s most European nation. The people are predominantly a heady mix of Italians – following waves of immigration – and Spanish from the colonial days, combining the former’s readiness to over-invest emotionally in the simplest of daily transactions with the latter’s inclination towards narcolepsy. If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of an Argentine’s fierce verbal wrath, just try and wait it out. Chances are they’ll be asleep long before they finish making their point. Other ingredients in the Argentine melting pot are French (17%), Germans (9%) and a smattering of Dutch, Scandinavian and even Welsh communities. It’s a bit like the EU, that is if it were corrupt, flooded with immigrants and about as stable economically as a baby giraffe on stilts wading through a bowl of custard. In other words; it’s like the EU.

In footballing terms Argentina are undeniably a colossus of the international game, even if the national team’s recent form at major tournaments – losing finalists at four of the last five Copa Americas as well as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil* – is beginning to make the country’s Latin name “land of silver” seem like satire. However the Argentines have gotten their mitts on the World Cup twice, both times, to put it kindly, in rather dubious circumstances. Their inaugural triumph on home soil in 1978 left a bad taste in the mouth for many, in particular the deeply suspicious 6-0 battering of a previously competent Peru that got them into the final.    Then, once in said final, Argentina unloaded their full gamesmanship repertoire onto their Dutch opponents which, coupled with the obligatory dodgy refereeing, helped the hosts seal the deal 3-1 in extra time.

Eight years later at Mexico 86 Argentina struck gold again in (slightly) cleaner circumstances by utilising the simple but devastatingly effective “just give it to Maradona” tactic, allowing the mercurial number 10 free reign to swivel, shimmy and fist the team to glory while his teammates sat back, relaxed and occasionally even touched the ball themselves. Argentina are also 15 time Copa America champions, although this statistic needs to be taken with a hefty dose of salt seeing as it’s very much the Capital One Cup of national team tournaments, i.e. featuring decent teams on paper but you know most of them aren’t really that arsed and that the main roster of talent will likely be saved for more illustrious competitions like the halftime raffle.

*Adding to this air of perennial runners up, defeat to Germany in Rio means Argentina are currently the only former world champions with a losing record in the final at 2:3.

The shirt

Despite their popularity with club sides, striped shirts are still rare at international level. Only Argentina and neighbouring Paraguay seem to utilise them consistently, which is probably a relief for manufacturers like Adidas for whom unfurling something original without deviating from a very specific, traditional formula must be a headache.                              Anyway, this design with its faint gold piping and white sleeves is perhaps as different as you’re likely to get in an Argentine shirt.

It was put to use during the 2006 World Cup finals, a tournament Argentina looked to have every chance of winning until they were taken to penalties by their German hosts in the quarter-finals with inevitable consequences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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