The nation broke out into song and celebrations after the Argentina’s hero Lionel Messi inspired the team to a 3-0 victory over Croatia in Qatar on Tuesday, sending them to the World Cup final.
Euphoria from the victory inspired thousands onto the streets as a tidal wave of fans swept from the neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires towards the city centre. They arrived at dusk and flooded in – on foot, in cars, via crowded underground Subte carriages, in buses with people hanging from the doors – until the famous Obelisk downtown was swamped with supporters setting up a carnival on Avenida 9 de Julio.
„We feel this World Cup like never before. Because of the death of Diego [Maradona in 2020] and because it is Messi’s last,“ Ramiro Monteiro, an unemployed 23-year-old, told AFP.
„We won! I love you Argentina,“ cried pensioner Pablo Cardozo, 74, as he stood in front of a television screen at a cafe in Buenos Aires, as younger customers cheered him on.
Dozens of people in the café rose from their seats and broke out into Argentina’s hit World Cup song: „Muchachos, ahora nos volvimos a ilusionar“ (which translates as „Lads, now we get excited again“) sung by ska band La Mosca.
Cardozo shouted himself almost hoarse with each of Argentina’s three goals: first a Messi penalty and then a brace from young forward Julián Álvarez, the second of which came after a mazy run by his captain and the team’s talisman.
„I love Julián!“ exclaimed Emilia Salvo, 23, as Gabriela Perdíguez, 26, added: „I can’t take any more of this excitement, it’s a dream!“
Students celebrated in the university neighbourhood of Barrio Clinicas.
Delfina Yacoy, 22, a student of medicine, was another marvelling at Álvarez’s contribution but added that „it was a really tough match, they are two great teams.“
„This seemed more difficult than other times, Croatia had just knocked out Brazil,“ said Clara Cerdeira 20, another student at a pizzeria terrace watching the game on an outdoor screen.
For supermarket employee Rodrigo Sarcino, 24, watching the match at an ice cream shop terrace, centre-back pairing „Nico Otamendi and ‘Cuti’ [Cristian] Romero are two lions!“
Throughout the country hoards of fans crowded around giant screens to watch the match and let their emotions run wild.
Thousands descended on the popular Punta Mogotes beach in the southern Mar del Plata seaside resort, the home of goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez, waving flags and little harlequin hats.
The greatest affection was of course reserved for Messi, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner who has achieved almost everything possible in the game – except emulating his predecessor as Argentina’s idol, Diego Maradona, who inspired the Albiceleste to World Cup glory in 1986.
„Messi has entered the hearts of fans. He is a very loveable person and has shown leadership, he’s shouldered the team,“ historian Felipe Pigna told AFP.
The skipper’s tetchy „¿Qué mirás, bobo?’ insult aimed at Dutch forward Wout Weghorst following Argentina’s dramatic quarter-final penalty shoot-out victory over the Netherlands has already made its way onto mugs, T-shirts and other memorabilia.
That spiciness is „loved so much by Argentine fans,“ added Pigna.
by Daniel Merolla, AFP