BUENOS AIRES — Hundreds of thousands of Argentines poured into the streets on a sunny Sunday in Buenos Aires, ecstatic after a nail-biting victory on penalties in the World Cup final over France made the South Americans world champions for the first time since 1986.
In a tense and roller-coaster match played in Qatar in front of some 88,000 fans, Argentina, led by star Lionel Messi, took home its third World Cup after beating France, the defending champions, 4-2 in penalties after drawing 3-3 after extra time.
“I can’t believe it! It was difficult, but we did it, thanks to Messi,” said Santiago, 13, celebrating the victory with his family in front of the Buenos Aires house that had belonged to late soccer icon Diego Maradona, who led the team in 1986.
Bearing flags, hats and the country’s iconic blue-and-white jerseys, Argentines took over Buenos Aires’ downtown and other iconic spots within minutes after the win. Across the country, other celebrations broke out.
“It was an incredible game, at times anguishing,” said 46-year-old Diego Aburgeily, who cheered on the national side from the suburbs of Buenos Aires. “This team made people fall in love with them for the first time in decades.”
The South American team, which lost the final of the tournament against Germany in 2014, had not won a World Cup since 1986. But the rise of the team has spurred avid support in Argentina, which is plagued by high inflation and an economic crisis that has pushed some 40% of the population into poverty.
“The harmony between the team, headed by a leader who plays at a level making him the best in the world, and the players’ condition in general led us to this well-deserved success. Let’s go Argentina!” he added.
The final win cements Mr. Messi’s status as a legend among Argentines, with the match Sunday expected to be his last appearance in a World Cup for Argentina. — Reuters