World Cup: Argentina delirious as Lionel Messi inspires run to final

Fans of Argentina celebrate their team's victory at the Obelisk in Buenos Aires on Dec 13, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

BUENOS AIRES - Argentinians broke out into song and celebrations after Lionel Messi inspired the national team to a 3-0 win over Croatia in Qatar on Tuesday, sending them to the World Cup final.

“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, with younger customers cheering him on.

Dozens of people in the cafe 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 Julian Alvarez, the second of which came after a mazy run by his captain and the team’s talisman.

“I love Julian!” exclaimed Emilia Salvo, 23, as Gabriela Perdiguez, 26, added: “I can’t take any more of this excitement, it’s a dream!”

Students also celebrated in the university neighbourhood of Barrio Clinicas.

Delfina Yacoy, 22, a medicine student, was another marvelling at Alvarez’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 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.

Fans at the former home of Argentine icon Diego Maradona in Buenos Aires celebrate a goal against Croatia on Tuesday. The three-storey home that Maradona bought in the 1980s, which was purchased this year by a local businessman, has suddenly become a hot spot to watch Argentina’s matches. PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

Thousands descended on the popular Punta Mogotes beach in the Mar del Plata seaside resort, the home of goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, waving flags and little harlequin hats.

The greatest affection was of course reserved for Messi, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner. He has achieved almost everything possible in the game – except emulating his predecessor as Argentina’s idol, the late Diego Maradona, who inspired the South Americans to World Cup glory in 1986.

“Messi has entered the hearts of fans. He is a very lovable person and has shown leadership, he’s shouldered the team,” historian Felipe Pigna told AFP.

Fans of Argentina watch the live broadcast of the World Cup semi-final between Croatia and Argentina at the beach in Mar del Plata, Argentina, on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP

Messi’s tetchy “fool, get lost” insult – aimed at Dutch forward Wout Weghorst following Argentina’s dramatic quarter-final penalty shoot-out win over the Netherlands – is already on mugs, T-shirts and other memorabilia.

That feistiness is “loved so much by Argentinian fans,” added Pigna. AFP

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.