Mon, Jul 23, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Brazilians cheer Argentines over rival Cuban teams

AP , RIO DE JANEIRO

Such is the growing rivalry between Brazil and Cuba at the Pan American Games that Brazilians have resorted to cheering for, of all teams, Argentina.

That happened on Friday when Argentina met Cuba in women's basketball and local fans preferred to support the Argentines, who couldn't repay the favor and lost. The same backing happened in the men's handball semi-finals when Argentina defeated Cuba.

Brazilians have been turned off by Cuba since the latter upset the home side in a thrilling women's volleyball final on Thursday and some Cuban players provoked the crowd after the medal ceremonies.

It continued to heat up with a controversial finish to a cycling race on Saturday.

Cuba has seven more gold medals than Brazil at the games' halfway point with 26 to 19, but the host has put on a fight every time its faced the Cubans.

Brazil delivered the latest blow on Saturday by winning the women's handball final 30-17, capturing its third straight Pan Ams title and securing a berth for next year's Beijing Olympics. Two Cubans were red-carded during the match.

"We knew that Cuba would rely on physical strength and that they would tease us, but we showed them who runs the show at home," Viviane Jacques said.

The women's volleyball final ignited the rivalry in Rio as Cuba saved six match points, including two in the tiebreaker, to pull out the heartbreaking upset. The Brazilians were favored to win the gold after reaching the final without losing a set. They won the last three Grand Prix and were runner-up to Russia in last year's world championship.

"We can't forget about the rivalry and history between Brazil and Cuba -- that has become a derby," Brazil's Fabiana Oliveira said.

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