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Argentinian soccer fans are hoping Messi finally gets to lift a World Cup

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: And I'm Carrie Kahn in Buenos Aires.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORNS)

KAHN: It's summertime here. And by game time, it's expected to be in the 80s. And if it's a win for Argentina, this is where you come to celebrate downtown at the Republic Plaza at the Obelisk Monument. Now it's filled with tourists, fans, vendors and some who are just plain nervous.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Spanish).

KAHN: Pablo Godoy says he and friends from a local football club came here to blow off steam.

PABLO GODOY: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "We're so nervous, anxious for the game," he says. He really hopes Argentina's captain, superstar Lionel Messi, finally wins a World Cup, something he's never done despite winning almost every other prize in soccer. That's brought the wrath of a nation on Messi, especially when compared to soccer legend Diego Maradona.

GODOY: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: Godoy says he's meted out the criticism and comparisons before and feels bad now. He wants this win for Messi since it's his last cup. The star forward is 35. "Everyone is uniting around him," says Godoy, "win or lose." Nine-year-old Candela Aranda isn't even contemplating a loss.

CANDELA ARANDA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "It's obvious we'll win," she says. "We made it to the final. We just can't lose." Aranda is decked out with tiny sunglasses. She's got light blue and white streaks on each cheek, the colors of the Argentine flag, which she's also wearing like a cape. It does feel like the whole country, which has careened between economic and political crises, is setting their hopes astronomically high. Inflation is nearing 100% here, and the Argentine peso is pretty much worthless. But when I jokingly ask waitress Maria Rosa Rodriguez, what would she want more? For inflation to go down or Argentina to win the Cup? She seriously doesn't hesitate.

MARIA ROSA RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "A win. We're used to high inflation," she says, "but not winning." It feels like the whole country is holding its breath today.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in Spanish).

KAHN: At this corner where the city has set up huge screens to watch the game, fans break out in songs and cheers. Jose Sanchez, a software developer, says there hasn't been a lot to celebrate of late in the country.

JOSE SANCHEZ: All the political and economic situation, it's, like, bringing all the people down, so everybody is now waiting for this to change their mood and at least have something to be happy about.

KAHN: And he says Argentina needs a win.

SANCHEZ: I think Argentina needs the win more than France. I think that (laughter).

KAHN: Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Buenos Aires.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.