Parents clutching their children ran away from the iconic Obelisk monument where tens of thousands of people had gathered, as the rowdy youths taunted police officers and tried to kick down the metal grills on some shop fronts, television pictures showed.
At least 15 police officers were wounded and more than 50 people detained in the unrest that followed the 1-0 defeat, local media reported.
Germany forward Mario Goetze’s volley in extra-time stunned local fans into silence and after the final minutes ticked down, millions of disconsolate Argentines were left to contemplate a defeat that deprived them of a first World Cup win since 1986.
“It’s another slap in the face. There is no more joy, but we came out second and were not shamed in Brazil,” said 40-year-old Eduardo Manfredi.
The hopes of 40 million people had been heaped on the shoulders of the national side – in particular Lionel Messi, who picked up the ‘Golden Ball’ as top player of the tournament, and in-form goal keeper Sergio Romero.
Hours before the game started, fans in the soccer-obsessed capital streamed along the city’s boulevards blowing vuvuzela horns and banging drums, while some even dressed up their pampered pooches in soccer strips tailor-made for dogs.
The run to the 2014 final handed Argentines welcome respite from newspaper headlines dominated in recent weeks by a brewing debt crisis, surging inflation and political scandal.
“I’m full of grief, it’s hard to explain,” lamented 56-year-old carpenter Luis Lanzzoni.
Argentine midfielder Javier Mascherano said he shared the nation’s pain.
“We are gutted,” he said. “We gave what we could and we are sorry for the people who came and for the people in Argentina.”
“Quite simply, Thank you”
The violence in downtown Buenos Aires soured what had been a festive atmosphere.
Tens of thousands of supporters had earlier streamed to the Obelisk monument waving the national flag, determined to party in celebration of reaching the final on the turf of their arch-rivals, Brazil.
Fans climbed onto bus stops and scaled lamp posts as chants of “Argentina, Argentina” rang out, while fireworks exploded overhead.
In a country polarized by a decade of politics under the populist president Cristina Fernandez and her predecessor, Fernandez’s late husband Nestor Kirchner, the national soccer team is a rare unifier.
“I feel proud to be Argentine. To wear this shirt on the day of a final is priceless,” said university student Marcelo Dailoff. “The players brought joy to Argentina after so long. Quite simply, thank you.”
Fans took comfort from seeing their side avoid the same kind of humiliating score inflicted on hosts Brazil. Germany thumped seven goals past a hapless Brazilian team in their semi-final.
Messi and his team-mates were expected to arrive back in Buenos Aires on Monday.
“The players put everything into the game, their hearts and souls. They lost the best way possible, not like Brazil who were smashed to smithereens,” said 32-year-old Lorena Hak.
“I’m going to the airport to welcome them home and thank them for everything, they deserve it.” – Reuters