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September 22, 2017

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Argentina, Brazil overcoming rivalry, mostly

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina -- Argentina and Brazil, South America's rival giants, have been getting over their mutual mistrust in recent years, but their newfound spirit of friendship definitely does not extend to soccer.

Fans from both sides had dreamed the World Cup would end with a mega-showdown against the team they most love to hate.

But Brazil's humiliating exit from their own World Cup has forced the old enemies back to years gone by in their animosity.

Brazilian fans left their green and yellow jerseys in the closet Wednesday to put on Dutch orange as Argentina played the Netherlands in the semifinals.

And the Brazilian press is predicting they will deck themselves out in German white for Sunday's final, even though Germany are the team that crushed their hopes of winning the Cup on home soil with a brutal 7-1 semifinal defeat Tuesday.

Argentine fans for their part have adopted a new anthem to goad the hosts: "Brazil, tell me what it feels like to have your daddy in your house!"

But off the pitch, relations between the two countries have never been better than in the past decade.

Torn apart through much of their history by territorial disputes inherited from their colonial rulers — Portugal for Brazil, Spain for Argentina — and rival bids for continental supremacy, the countries have recently gravitated toward economic integration and tighter ties.

Ex-presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Nestor Kirchner of Argentina, both leftists who came to power in 2003, sealed a political alliance and personal friendship that has continued under their hand-picked successors, Dilma Rousseff and the deceased Kirchner's wife Cristina.

The rapprochement has boosted Mercosur, the customs union they belong to with Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, and underpinned the 2008 launch of Unasur, a pan-South American political bloc.

"It's phenomenal how relations have changed, seen from the perspective of the past 25 years," Argentine sociologist Atilio Boron told AFP.

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