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SPORTS | 20-12-2022 08:51

Heroes' welcome for Albiceleste players and staff upon arrival at Ezeiza

Argentina's World Cup winners were given a heroes' welcome after returning home from Qatar and arriving at Ezeiza; Players due to rest before departing at midday for parade from AFA headquarters to Buenos Aires' famous Obelisk landmark.

Argentina's World Cup winners returned home from Qatar in the early hours of Tuesday morning ahead of a welcome home 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 Ezeiza International Airport, where they arrived in Buenos Aires and where thousands of supporters were waiting to greet them.

Later on Tuesday they are due to embark upon a lengthy parade route that will head to the iconic Obelisk monument. The tour of the Buenos Aires city centre begins at midday on Tuesday with millions expected to be out in the streets after the government declared a national public holiday.

"We will be here all night and tomorrow as well," student Ayrton Kerdocas, 25, told AFP outside the airport. "Tomorrow we are not working, we won't do anything and we'll go directly to the Obelisk with Argentina."

The Albiceleste won the final in Qatar 4-2 on penalties after a rollercoaster 3-3 draw over 120 minutes of unparalleled drama for their first world title in 36 years.

Skipper Lionel 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.

Forward Julián Álvarez, a revelation in Qatar with his four goals, was one of the next players out of the Aerolinas Argentinas Airbus A330.

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 a white open-top bus with the words "world champions" and three stars on its side as their World Cup theme song 'Muchachos' by ska band La Mosca blared out.


'Better than 86'

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

A private reception at a VIP suite in the airport had been arranged to greet the returning players.

"I came because of my passion for Argentina. I love Messi, I love the entire team," Alejandra Díaz, 55, a kindergarten teacher told AFP outside the airport.

Welder Javier Merina, 41, a Messi "fanatic" said he had come to the airport to try to get the star to sign a picture.

"If he doesn't I will go to Rosario, to Funes [Messi's home town] to see if I can get Messi's autograph," said Merina.

Messi, 35, 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 Diego Maradona who inspired the country to their second world title with a series of match-winning displays at Mexico 1986.

"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 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.

Despite the huge numbers of revellers during Sunday's festivities "people acted in a very positive way," a spokesperson for the municipality said.

Fewer than 20 people were arrested for isolated incidents of violence or theft.



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