It’s Brazil and Argentina time in the U.S. sun

In the Los Angeles Argentine and Brazilian communities, World Cup remains alive and frenetic as their soccer teams prepare for this week’s semifinals and a…

Brazil-Argentina rivalry on play in the 2014 World Cup. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

In the Los Angeles Argentine and Brazilian communities, World Cup remains alive and frenetic as their soccer teams prepare for this week’s semifinals and a possible championship showdown.

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“The world is ours – we just have to go out and prove it,” says Argentine transplant Adriana Luongo, as she dines on plantains, rice and beans at Café Brasil in West Los Angeles.

“Why am I, an Argentine eating in a Brazilian restaurant? I am showing respect but I also want to remind my Brazilian friends that Argentina is here, too. Argentina America is ready to reclaim the World Cup.”

She is putting an exclamation mark on what she is saying with what she is wearing: The distinct blue and white striped Argentine national team jersey with the name and the number 10 on the back of its star player, Lionel Messi.

Outside the restaurant, the night sways to the rhythmic beat from Batala, a local branch of the internationally famous drum group that specializes in Brazilian samba reggae from Bahia Brasil.

Brazil and Argentina in the World Cup semifinals

Argentina fans dream of Brazil final in the World Cup. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

It is a lively scene that has become common for the past month in Los Angeles, where the city’s annual Brazilian cultural festival in June seemed to simply blend into the World Cup frenzy taking place in Brazil.

On Tuesday Brazil plays Germany in one semifinal while Argentina takes on The Netherlands in the other semifinal Wednesday, with the winners playing Sunday for the World Cup title.

Could that become the ultimate soccer matchup — Argentina against Brazil? Their fans are hoping so. And so are many others.

When the United States team was beaten in the Round of 16 last week, many thought their elimination had taken the air out of the World Cup euphoria that had gripped the nation.

But the continued success of Argentina and Brazil has dispelled that notion, emphasizing the popularity of soccer in the U.S. and the enormous following that both the Brazilian and Argentine teams have in American – a cultural phenomenon that has occurred not just among Hispanics and Latinos.

“Argentina and Brazil are the two most charismatic teams in World Cup,” says Los Angeles automobile dealership owner Rick Barsocchini, himself a fourth-generation Italian American but wearing a Brazilian No. 10 Neymar Jr. jersey as he sips on a vente latte at a Starbucks on Monday.

“I’m a baseball fan – I had an uncle who was a friend of DiMaggio’s,” says Barsocchini. “But (David) Beckham coming to play in L.A. a few years turned me into a soccer fan, and then I learned even more about the game from my grandchildren. Soccer it to them what baseball was to me when I was their age.

“Today you can’t tear me away from soccer, especially now with that Neymar kid breaking his back. Man, that’s the kind of story that tugs on your heart strings.”

And those kinds of sentiments, for both teams transcend Los Angeles, which has sizable Argentine and Brazilian populations spread primarily around the affluent Westside.

In the U.S., there are also noticeable Argentine American populations in the metropolitan areas of South Florida, Houston and Dallas, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and western Pennsylvania.

Similarly, there are substantial Brazilian American communities throughout the U.S., especially in the northeastern states, Florida and California.

The U.S. Census doesn’t help much in identifying actual population figures because labels like Hispanic and Latino creates ambiguity for Brazilians — who are of South American origin but do not have a Spanish culture as such.

World Cup, though, has had an unmeasured impact on the acculturation of both Brazilians and Argentines on the U.S. and the other way around.

Argentine and Brazilian restaurants in Los Angeles have become pop cultural magnets this summer. Cars cruise the streets displaying team banners. Argentine and Brazilian flags can be seen waving proudly in front of a lot of homes.

“World Cup has brought the eyes of America on to Brazil as never before,” says Brazilian American actor Tiago Riani. “It is Brazil’s time in the sun, and everyone wants to be part of it.”

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