Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Cowboys, beer, an opera and a pair of popes: Why Germany has the edge on Argentina in the World Cup final

Argentina and Germany have a long history off the pitch – they've been allies and friends (in foreign relations terms) for nearly 200 years and Argentina has been an immigrant destination for Germans since before German unification in 1871. But while the world evaluates which team has the better chance in Sunday's World Cup final, we've decided to compare the two countries' chances on a slightly different scale.

An Argentine gaucho, or cowboy, rides a horse during the National Festival of the Calf and Cattle Branding in Ayacucho, Argentina, May 10, 2008. (Pablo Aneli/AP)


Germans have a fascination with cowboys, natives and the Wild West. German hobbyists spend their weekends trying to live exactly as natives of the North American plains. Cowboy-themed saloons – where patrons wear vests, hats and boots and call each other “partner” – can be found in most major German cities. Most credit (or blame) German author Karl May for the country’s obsession with the Old West. May wrote several novels that centred on the adventures of a Native American hero named Winnetou.

Argentina, on the other hand, has real cowboys, known as Gaucho. Honoured in epic poems and tied to nationalistic spirit in Argentina, the gaucho is a symbol of freedom, independence and strength. The mascot of the 1978 World Cup, held in Argentina, was Gauchito, a young Argentinian wearing a gaucho hat.

Who has the edge: ARGENTINA, obviously, because they have real cowboys and they aren’t hung up on reciting fictional Diehard character Hans Gruber’s “Yippee Ki-yay” line every time they meet an American.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (left) greets Pope Francis as the former arrives at the Vatican in this handout provided by Osservatore Romano May 2, 2013. (Reuters)

The Popes

Not only are there two living Popes, but one originally hails from Germany and the other from Argentina. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was born Joseph Ratzinger in Bavaria and was pope from 2005 until his resignation in 2013 and Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aries. While some reports out of the Vatican suggest Pope Francis is pulling for Argentina, a Vatican spokesman has gone on the record to say neither intends a papal intervention and Francis has promised he will not pray for any Argentine victory. The Vatican also said it is unlikely the popes would get together to watch the game.

Who has the edge: It’s a wash. Their boss was obviously cheering for Brazil.

Hans Meir from Holzhausen, south of Munich, dressed in traditional Bavarian clothes, drinks out of a beer mug in a beer tent at the Oktoberfest in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2002. (AP)


Though it might be world-famous for its wines, Argentina has undergone a beer renaissance in the last few decades. As any beer buff will tell you, taste comes down to only a handful of factors, chief among them the water used in the brewing process. For all the boasting about fresh German mountain springs, Argentina has best-in-class, extremely pure water aquifers to draw from for their draught. However, Germany has a centuries-old beer culture, a “Beer Purity Law” that dates back to 1487 and the country celebrates every fall with a 18-day festival of beer.

Who has the edge: GERMANY: Actually, Bavaria. Almost half of Germany’s breweries are in Bavaria and the region has a sporting event that involves contestants seeing who can can hold a beer stein in their outstretched hand the longest.


Argentina’s Teatro Colon is considered one of the finest opera houses in the world and is renowned for its flawless acoustics and architectural design. The theatre is in downtown Buenos Aires and is more than a century old. Coincidently, its name is pronounced a lot like Cologne, the fourth-largest city in Germany. Meanwhile, Germany is considered the birthplace of Romanticism in opera, which first appeared in works by Carl Maria von Weber in the early 19th century. The works of Richard Wagner have had a profound effect on Western music and Romantic operas by Richard Strauss (1864-1949) remain standard in opera repertoire.

Who has the edge: GERMANY: Any country whose opera is immortalized in a Bugs Bunny cartoon is by default the winner.

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to