AT this point, Argentina's unofficial World Cup song has been heard around the globe.

Set to the tune of Bad Moon Rising - that jaunty 1960s rock track about the end of the world by Creedence Clearwater Revival - the taunting refrain asks Brazil how it feels "to have your daddy in your house". In case the implication isn't clear, the verses remind Brazilian fans of the goal by Claudio Caniggia that knocked their squad out of the World Cup in 1990. "You've been crying since Italy until today . . . "

Needless to say, the lyrics do not mention that Argentina went on to lose in the final of that tournament, to the team that was then called West Germany. Nor that Brazil have since won the World Cup twice, while Argentina have not progressed beyond the quarter-finals in the intervening 24 years. Until now, of course.

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On Wednesday night, when Maxi Rodriguez fired the last shot of the penalty shootout that ended a long, tense and tactical semi-final against the Netherlands, the streets of Buenos Aires quickly filled with people so relieved and overjoyed that you would think they were celebrating an armistice. It was, by happy coincidence, Argentina's Independence Day. But instead of the national anthem, the crowds were singing that song about Brazil again, the one that claims: "Maradona is greater than Pele."

In the western suburb of Ramos Mieja, thousands of jubilant pedestrians completely blocked Rivadavia avenue, with many drivers abandoning their cars to jump around and join the chorus. Teenagers climbed on top of the traffic lights and scaled a flimsy metal gantry some 50 feet in the air to blow triumphal plastic horns and hang huge Argentina flags over the main intersection. Jumbo video screens outside the Dionisio Pizzeria replayed Sergio Romero's two saved penalties on a non-stop loop to continuous cheers. Local teacher Ruben Gonzalez was seeing these for the first time, having been too nervous to watch the shootout as it happened. In the hour or so since, he had shrieked himself hoarse. "We are so close to the dream, man," said Gonzalez.

"Not just to win, but to win in Brazil, in the Maracana stadium." When asked why the latter part of that dream was so important, Gonzalez shrugged and echoed a popular sentiment. "Because Brazil think that they own the World Cup." He and his friends then launched into the latest adaptation of that ubiquitous song, cheekily reworded to ask Brazil how it felt to concede seven goals in their own nightmarish semi-final two days earlier. This correspondent tried to remind them that Argentina had yet to face the team that annihilated their rivals, but Gonzalez shrugged again. "I've said it since the beginning, if we get to the final we will win everything."

On the other side of Buenos Aires, in the working-class satellite town of Quilmes, the street parties went on into Thursday morning. Mariana Buschmann, a shipping company secretary and self-confessed home team fanatic, admitted that she had been "thrilled" by Germany's first five goals against Brazil, but started to feel bad by the last two. "In football we have always had this mutual hatred," said Buschmann.

"But it doesn't apply to the people or the politics. For example, I like Dilma [Rousseff, the Brazilian president] much more than Angela Merkel." Despite her Germanic genealogy (her father's loyalties, she said, were now deeply divided) Buschmann had no doubt that Argentina would now succeed where their neighbours had so spectacularly failed. "We have bigger balls than Germany," she said.

"They only won in 1990 because of that non-existent penalty. It has taken 24 years but we are about to have revenge. And the real coup will be to do it in Maracana."

In the cold light of day, others did not seem so sure. This morning at the Don Pollo grocery store, a popular hangout for local aficionados in the northern barrio of Nunez, the talk inevitably turned to Sunday's final. Yes, it was agreed, Argentina's defensive line had held much better than expected, and apologies were owed to players like Lucas Biglia and Martin Demichelis, roundly considered bad picks at the outset of the tournament.

Yes, the mighty Lionel Messi had generally convinced his many doubters. And Javier Mascherano was being praised in terms reserved for saints and mythic heroes. "But Germany is still the favourite," said shop owner Luis Pereyra.

"Some of that team have been playing together for 10 years. They can read each others' minds. They can read their opponents' minds too.

"I have friends who were laughing when they beat Brazil. Okay, I was laughing too. But secretly, I'm terrified."