Argentina and Lionel Messi fans packed Maria Empanada on South Broadway for the 2022 World Cup final

Nearly 6,000 miles separate Buenos Aires from Denver, but that didn’t stop local Argentines and fans from singing at the top of their lungs.

Alicia Macioch (right) holds her hand over her heart as she sings the Argentine National Anthem during a World Cup final watch party at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location. Dec. 18, 2022.

Alicia Macioch (right) holds her hand over her heart as she sings the Argentine National Anthem during a World Cup final watch party at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location. Dec. 18, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
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“Anulo mufa.”

For the last month, Argentines around the world have been uttering the phrase under their breath while their national football team competed in the 2022 World Cup.

The phrase, which roughly translates to “cancel the curse,” is a plea to bring success to the Argentina national team — a team that has previously fallen short in soccer’s biggest tournament despite being led by Lionel Messi, arguably the greatest player of all time.

Before Sunday’s World Cup final between Argentina and France, Maria Empanada, an Argentine restaurant in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood, was packed several hours before the 8 a.m. kickoff.

Workers at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location celebrate as Argentina wins the World Cup final on Dec. 18, 2022.

Workers at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location celebrate as Argentina wins the World Cup final on Dec. 18, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

People were excited, and nervous.

“Anulo mufa,” said Arturo Rodriguez, who was watching when Argentina lost in the 2014 final against Germany. “We don’t want to say we’re going to win before the game, so we don’t lose.”

For roughly 120 minutes, plus stoppage time and penalties, the corner of South Broadway and East Louisiana became part of Argentina. Strangers, many of whom wore Messi’s number 10 on their backs, stood shoulder to shoulder. The crowd became so large that it exceeded a small tent the restaurant had erected on the sidewalk to seat overflow patrons. People peered through two open windows to catch a glimpse of one of the three screens inside.

Argentina fans freak out as their team scores a goal in overtime during a World Cup final watch party at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location. Dec. 18, 2022.

Argentina fans freak out as their team scores a goal in overtime during a World Cup final watch party at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location. Dec. 18, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Since the beginning of this World Cup, Maria Empanada has been the place to be for many Argentina fans. The restaurant even opened at 3 a.m. for the team’s first game against Saudi Arabia.

“We can live the game,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not just to watch the game, it’s to live it as an Argentinian”

During the final on Sunday, the noise inside was deafening. Commentary from Telemundo’s livestream played on the speakers, but it could only be heard for brief moments in between chants. At halftime, Argentina led by two goals and the chanting and drumming continued even while commercials played.

“Olé, olé, olé, cada día te quiero más,” the crowd chanted. “Soy Argentino, es un sentimiento, no puedo parar.”

And every time 35-year-old Messi touched the ball, the room got even louder — people knew that if any player could create something out of nothing, it’s Messi.

“Messi’s the man, I love him,” Omar Osses said, wearing a shirt featuring trash-talk Messi said following a quarter-final victory against the Netherlands.

With less than 10 minutes left in the game, France scored its second goal, which brought the score to a tie. The crowd briefly went quiet. But soon, the chanting picked up again.

Argentina fans hold their breath during the first half of the World Cup final watch party at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location. Dec. 18, 2022.

Argentina fans hold their breath during the first half of the World Cup final watch party at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location. Dec. 18, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

During 30 minutes of overtime, Messi scored to bring the lead back to Argentina. But France once again leveled the score after a late penalty. The game went to a penalty shootout, a best-of-ten tie-breaking method, which most soccer fans dread.

Some fans looked away, while others stared intently while making the sign of the cross. Nervous tears streamed down some faces.

Those tears turned into happy ones when Gonzalo Montiel slotted his penalty past France’s goalkeeper to win the shootout.

The restaurant erupted into jubilation. People screamed at the top of their lungs, hugged their loved ones, and threw their beers into the air.

The crowd moved outside, becoming a cacophony of celebration and car honking as people drove past.

Alvaro Latorre carried a drum and helped lead the crowd in more chants.

“For the third time, we are the champions. Champions of the world,” Latorre said, before turning his attention back to the chants.

Argentina fans bang on drums during a World Cup final watch party at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location. Dec. 18, 2022.

Argentina fans bang on drums during a World Cup final watch party at Maria Empanada's Platt Park location. Dec. 18, 2022.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

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