Falls prey to frenzied nationalism, to bands of youths rushing through the streets blowing whistles, waving flags, and shouting, "Ar-gen-tina," one shudders to think of the orgies of chauvinism that would follow an Argentine victory in tomorrow's final world cup.
Do they deserve to win it? I rather incline to the view of that dry Sardinian, Antonello Cuccurreddu, the Italian defender, who observed that this was a tournament made to measure for Argentina. Moreover, the referees have helped them a bit," he said. "I think the whole world saw."
Indeed it did, were it watching television. For instance, Argentina would never have beaten skillful France were it not for the disgraceful blunders of the Swiss referee, Jean Dubach, but then it has been much the worst-referred tournament I can remember. "It's sad when you go to the field feeling unprotected," Enzo Bearzot, Italy's coach, told me in the aftermath of the lost game against Holland, still bitter at the robust tacics of the Dutch team.
Unquestionably the Spaniard, Angel Martinez, was another dreadful referee, letting abominable fouls go unpunished, or punishing them with a free kick but no yellow card.
The deeply unenviable of referring the final, and standing up to the pressure of a fanatical Buenos Aires crowd, will fall to the Italian, Sergio Gonella, a bank director from Parma, who speaks Spanish, but neither Dutch nor English, a language that the Dutch understand. Gonella is one of the better - or perhaps one should say less bad - referees in this tournament. I should have preferred to see the brave little Israeli, Abraham Klein, but after his firm officiating in Argentina's lost to Italy, there was little chance that they would stand for him again.
The echoes of Peru's disgraceful showing against Argentina continue to reverberate. The Argentine papers carry stories of a Brazilian attempt to give the Peruvians money to try hard. Whatever the reason, there is little doubt that the Peruvians, after a good, brief beginning, hardly tried at all. Claudio Coutinho, the Brazilian coach, has virtually accused them of selling out at the expense of his team, and has sonorously mused that they won't feel proud when they hear their national anthem played at the next World Cup.
But Dino Zoff, Italy's goalkeeper, objected to the criticism of Peru. "Enough, don't let's look for the dialogues that aren't there Peru played three hard games and they were softened up."
The Italians are caustic about the trying goal scored against them by Holland's young defender, Erny Brandts, from outside the penalty box, early in the second half. "If they hadn't scored after five minutes," said Renato Zaccarelli, "they wouldn't have scored for a month. He saw three of our men there, didn't know what to do with it, and shot. That's not a plan, he just shot to get rid of it." Alas for Italy, the shot was a devastating right-footer - by a left-footed player - which tore past Zoff to score.
Cesar Menotti, Argentina's coach, continues to eulogise his team's performance against Peru. Hollow words, though at least he insists that the natural Argentinian game is to attack, and he has unquestionably encouraged them to do so. A happy contrast from the wretched days of the late 1960s, when Argentinian teams defended with brutal cynicism and kicked everything that moved.
It's hard to forecast what team Argentina will put in the field tomorrow, but I imagine little Osvaldo Ardiles, it's most busy and creative midfield player, will recover his place from Omar Larrosa if his injury mends. I don't think Argentina can afford to be without him. Holland won't lie down gracefully and die like Peru