Argentina returned home to an ecstatic welcome after winning the World Cup in Qatar on Sunday.
To mark the occasion, a national bank holiday was declared and Argentines took full advantage. Street parties to celebrate the win were held all over the county, whilst an estimated five million people, many of them wearing the blue and white of the country’s football jersey, thronged the streets of the capital, Buenos Aires, to greet the victorious players.
So great was the crush of humanity and the risk of serious mass injury, that plans to complete a tour via an open top bus had to be abandoned in the end, in favour of a helicopter journey by the players.
Many people have described the game against France as the greatest World Cup final ever. Argentina seemed to have the match won when they led 2 – 0, only for the French to equalise with two goals in 97 seconds.
Then in extra time, Argentina regained the lead, only for France to equalise again, resulting in the drama of a penalty shoot-out which was eventually decided in the favour of the South Americans.
The World Cup win cemented the legacy of their captain Lionel Messi as one of the greatest players to have ever lived. He won the Golden Ball and finished second highest top scorer in the tournament.
Nothing could tarnish the big moment for him, not even being made to wear a bisht, a traditional Arab dress over his team jersey as he lifted the trophy after this was presented to him by the Emir of Qatar.
In fact, so pleased was he to finally get his hands on the trophy he wanted more than any other that he took the World Cup to bed and slept with it.
Winning the World Cup also enabled Messi to emulate the feat of Diego Maradona, one of his heroes and somebody who has iconic status for millions of Argentines.
Unlike Maradona, Messi has never played his club football in the land of his birth, and that, in his earlier years, created something of a gulf between player and his countryman, Those days are long in the past now.
Yet, it had seemed to be that he was destined to go through his entire international career without major trophy success. He was on the losing side in the 2014 World Cup final, when Germany beat them by a single goal in Rio.
And he had also been beaten in the final of the Copa América three times.
All that changed last year when Argentina defeated Brazil, again on penalties, to win the Copa América at last on his watch, and now he has added A World Cup winner’s medal to his collection.
All this helps to explain why the celebrations have been particularly enthusiastic after this triumph.
Arriving back from Qatar in the early hours of the morning, the initial plan was for them to make the 20 mile journey from the Argentine Football Association training complex to the centre of the capital.
But with hundreds of people lining every inch of the route, and scooters riding alongside and behind the bus, their progress became increasingly difficult.
In the end local security forces made the judgement that, for the sake of public order, which it was too dangerous to allow the bus to continue on its journey to its planned destination, the Plaza de la Republica.
Instead, the whole squad took to the air in a fleet of helicopters from which they could look down on the sea of humanity below.
France also get big reception
France may have been vanquished in Sunday’s final, but they returned home to a very warm reception of their own.
Thousands of fans gathered on the Place de la Concorde, where they lit flares and sang sons as the players emerged on the balcony of the Hôtel Crillon.
There was no disgrace in ending on the wrong side of such an epic match, and, with better luck in the penalty shoot-out, if could easily have gone the other way.
And it was particularly bad luck on Kylian Mbappé who scored a hat-trick in the final but still ended on the losing side.
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