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Argentina’s World Cup winners led by captain Lionel Messi returned home from Qatar in the early hours of Tuesday morning ahead of a welcome party in the nation’s capital.

Having beaten France in Sunday’s thrilling final, the players will now spend the night at the Argentine Football Association (AFA) training complex near the airport, where thousands of supporters are waiting to greet them.

They will then begin a tour of the Buenos Aires city centre from midday on Tuesday with millions expected in the streets on what is a public holiday.

“Crowned with glory,” read a banner on a newspaper kiosk in Buenos Aires, while Clarin and La Prensa dailies both sent a huge “Thank you” to Messi and his teammates for winning the country’s third world title and first in 36 years.

Argentina won the final in Qatar 4-2 on penalties after a rollercoaster 3-3 draw over 120 minutes of unparallelled drama.

Messi, who scored twice in the final, was the first player to emerge from the plane, holding the World Cup aloft, with coach Lionel Scaloni right behind him.

Argentina fans react to World Cup 2022
Argentina fans react to World Cup 2022 © France 24


Forward Julian Alvarez, a revelation in Qatar with his four goals, was one of the next players to emerge, alongside the man whose place he took in the team, Lautaro Martinez, who was carrying a drum.

A picture of Messi was emblazoned on the plane’s tail with the words: “one team, one country, one dream” on its side.

The players made their way from the plane along a red carpet straight to an open-top bus as their World Cup theme song “Muchachos” by ska band La Mosca blared out.

‘Much more emotional’ than 1986

Excitement had been brewing since the party that began after Sunday’s final ahead of the players’ arrival.

“I’m going to greet them at the airport. Now that they have been crowned we have to greet them and thank them,” Jose Luis Quinoga, 56, told AFP at the Obelisk memorial in central Buenos Aires, where the night before more than a million people celebrated.

A private reception at a VIP suite in the airport had been arranged to greet the returning players and the AFA said they will celebrate with fans at the Obelisk on Tuesday.

“I will leave work and the first thing I will do is come here,” Julieta Rosel, 23, told AFP at the monument.

Messi finally crowned his record-breaking career with football’s biggest prize as he produced one of the greatest World Cup final performances, scoring a first-half penalty and netting again in extra time.

In doing so he emulated his predecessor as Argentina’s idol, Diego Maradona, who inspired the country to their second world title with a series of match-winning displays at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.

“I remember ’86 but this victory yesterday was much more emotional and much more stressful,” architect Ricardo Grunfeld, 65, told AFP.

“I don’t know if there’s any difference with ’86 but this comes at a good time,” added Zulema Guereri, 80.

Argentina had led 2-0 with 10 minutes of normal time left and 3-2 with only two minutes of extra-time to go but striker Kylian Mbappé completed only the second World Cup final hat-trick in history to take the gripping final to penalties, before Gonzalo Montiel swept home the decisive spot kick.

‘It warms the heart’

Meanwhile, France’s beaten players were given a rousing reception by fans in central Paris on Monday after their return from Qatar.

They appeared on the balcony of the Crillon Hotel overlooking the Place de la Concorde.

“Frankly, it’s magnificent, it warms the heart, it’s a great pleasure to see that we were able to make so many French people proud and happy,” forward Marcus Thuram told TF1 TV.   

France's Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Aurelien Tchouameni, Kylian Mbappe and manager Didier Deschamps greet the fans from a balcony at the Hotel Crillon in Paris on December 19, 2022.
France’s Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Aurelien Tchouameni, Kylian Mbappe and manager Didier Deschamps greet the fans from a balcony at the Hotel Crillon in Paris on December 19, 2022. © Sarah Meyssonnier, Reuters


They landed at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport just before 8pm (1900 GMT) where a caravan of coaches took them straight to the centre of Paris.

Goalkeeper and captain Hugo Lloris told TF1 that it was a chance to “greet them (the fans), to thank them for their support and, after yesterday’s pain, to seek their consolation”. 

The captivating final rounded off one of the most controversial World Cups in history.

Qatari organisers faced persistent questions about the country’s treatment of migrant workers and its laws on homosexuality.

Football’s world governing body FIFA said the cumulative stadium attendance was 3.4 million spectators and that more than 1 million visitors travelled to Qatar to watch the matches.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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