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Delighted Argentinians celebrate after 6-0 rout

Written by: Staff
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, June 16 (Reuters) Wildly cheering fans streamed out of cafes onto Buenos Aires' streets today after Argentina demolished Serbia and Montenegro 6-0 to emerge as instant World Cup favorites.

Taxis cruising the capital's streets for scant trade sounded their horns and fire-crackers echoed across the city each time a goal was scored in Gelsenkirchen, Germany.

''Now we have the comfort of knowing we've qualified. We're aware there's still a game left, which we mustn't lose, we cannot lose with the football Argentina's playing,'' said Avelino Cariatti, a masseur, outside a downtown cafe.

Within minutes of the game ending, hundreds of fans thronged near the downtown Obelisk monument in Buenos Aires, a traditional gathering spot where fans celebrated when Argentina won the tournament in 1978 and 1986.

It was a sharp contrast with Argentina's disappointing first-round exit from the 2002 World Cup, which heightened despondency in a country then in the depths of an economic crisis.

As Argentina played, booking their place in the second round, downtown avenues in Buenos Aires were unusually clear of morning rush-hour traffic.

Cafes painted in the national colors of sky-blue and white were crowded with workers and students having extended breakfasts of coffee and croissants.

Passers-by huddled in the autumn cold and sipped traditional ''mate'' tea outside electrical stores displaying televisions showing the game. Employees took advantage of a complete absence of customers to watch the game.

Street vendors did a brisk trade in blue-and-white flags, scarves, jesters' hats and wigs.

''The streets are empty for a Friday, but football is very important in Argentina; it brings all classes together, men and women, everyone,'' said taxi driver Carlos Jimenez.

''We hadn't expected quite so many goals against a tough team like Serbia-Montenegro, but it's a great result,'' he added.

Schoolchildren across the country were cheering from the classroom after the education ministry granted special permission for viewing World Cup matches rather than face mass absences.

''It's better that they should miss 90 minutes than the whole day,'' said Alejandra Barrionuevo, a parent at the Manuela Pedraza primary school in Buenos Aires, as screaming 12-year-old pupils jumped on chairs and hugged each other.

REUTERS DH PC2345

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