The World Cup highlights Argentina’s economic woes and Brazil’s political division

Three weeks into the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, two of the six Latin American countries that qualified for the tournament are still competing to become world champions. Argentina will play the Netherlands and Brazil will play Croatia in the quarter-finals on 9 December. However, an event that once granted a respite from economic and political woes now highlights them in the two South American countries, writes Southern Pulse’s Federico Wettstein.


According to Italian economist Marco Mello from the UK’s University of Surrey, the world champion gets an 0.25% increase in its GDP in the two quarters following the World Cup due to a rise in exports. A good performance from the national team also positively impacts the national stock market, according to the IDB. Right now, Argentina needs any economic boost it can get as year-on-year inflation hits 88% and poverty rates top 36.5%.

Argentina’s Central Bank has lost more than USD1.7 billion of its national USD reserves in 2022, almost half of that during the first two weeks of November. To discourage Argentines from spending USD abroad, the government has implemented a new series of taxes ahead of the World Cup creating what came to be known as the “Qatar dollar.” Accordingly, any credit or debit card purchases made abroad totaling more than USD300 a month will incur an additional 25% tax. As part of the same tax package, international plane tickets issued in Argentina will now incur a 107% tax.

The currency controls around the World Cup add to the long list of financial measures adopted by the Argentinian government to curb the leakage of USD needed to pay its foreign debt. Although Argentina was the country that requested the second-highest number of tickets to attend games in Qatar, only 15,000 of the 50,000 Argentines that went to Qatar went straight from Argentina, the rest were expats. Economic prisoners in all but name, affording a vacation in an exotic destination, such as Qatar, is a luxury that few Argentines still living in Argentina can now afford.


Sporting mega-events such as the World Cup are often thought to foster national unity, but in the aftermath of a highly contested presidential election in October 2022, not even a shared love for the verde amarela (an affectionate nickname for the team’s jersey) has bridged the gap between lulistas and bolsonaristas.

The traditional yellow and green kit of the Brazilian national team has become a symbol of outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right constituency. Encouraged by Bolsonaro, his supporters have worn the verde amarela during political rallies before the elections, when casting votes on election day, and while blocking highways and protesting outside military bases after the election. In response, President-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s constituency has opted for Brazil’s blue alternate jersey.

Even Brazil’s national soccer team has split along partisan lines, with Brazilian soccer star Neymar siding with Bolsonaro and Brazilian soccer coach Tite being accused of supporting Lula, despite his protestations to the contrary. Before the second round of the presidential elections, Neymar posted a TikTok video of himself singing one of Bolsonaro’s campaign tunes. He has also promised to dedicate a goal at the World Cup to the president.

Southern Pulse’s take

The region is holding its breath as soccer fans hope Argentina breaks a 36-year-long dry spell, while Brazilians are hopeful their team can win its sixth World Cup. However, even if one of the two great soccer-playing nations is lucky enough to lift the trophy, the post-tournament euphoria will serve as short respite from their economic and political woes. The truth is that after 16 December, Argentina will continue to be haunted by grim economic prospects, and Brazil will remain deeply divided along partisan lines. In Argentina, the government will likely keep enacting short-sighted economic measures to fight rampant inflation as it struggles with declining foreign investment, and tries to pay off USD274.8 billion in foreign debt. As for Brazil, the incoming Lula administration will not have a legislative majority, paralyzing much-needed policies to revert unprecedented levels of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and high gas prices. With both countries at an impasse, these deep divisions look unlikely to change anytime soon.

Whether it’s Argentina or Brazil, Southern Pulse has the experience, network, and relationships to simplify this challenging region with honest, direct answers to your most complicated questions. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.




Southern Pulse provides strategic advisory services to help businesses operate successfully in Latin America.

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Southern Pulse

Southern Pulse provides strategic advisory services to help businesses operate successfully in Latin America.