Lionel Messi and Argentina returned as heroes as they were greeted by thousands of fans at Ezeiza International Airport after touching down in Buenos Aires following their stunning World Cup triumph.
Argentina led twice through goals from Messi and Angel Di Maria but with just minutes remaining in extra time France won a penalty – which Kylian Mbappe duly dispatched to take the final to a shootout where Emiliano Martinez’s brilliance in goal saw the Argentines emerge victorious Sunday.
The national team and the World Cup trophy, which they lifted for a third time Sunday, landed back in Argentina after a roughly 21-hour flight at around 2.20am local time Tuesday morning.
Lionel Messi and Argentina returned as heroes as they landed at Ezeiza International Airport
Captain Messi cradled the World Cup trophy as the Argentines returned home after their win
Manager Lionel Scaloni wrapped his arm around the superstar as they greeted fans
Argentina won the third World Cup in their history with a 4-2 win on penalties against France
As was only fitting, talisman Messi emerged from the plane first and lifted the World Cup trophy triumphantly into the air as he and head coach Lionel Scaloni stepped on to the airplane steps to greet the waiting fans.
The PSG star, with his medal around his neck, could not keep the beaming smile off his face and he soaked up the homecoming.
Messi scored twice during the World Cup final at the Lusail Stadium, adding to his total haul of seven for the tournament and finally clinched the one trophy that had so far evaded him throughout his sensational career.
Scaloni, who had burst into tears after Gonzalo Montiel slotted home the winning penalty, wrapped an arm around his captain as the pair waved to those greeting them on the tarmac.
As soon as the players deplaned, they headed straight onto an open-top bus that had been waiting for them on the tarmac to take them to the Argentine Football Association’s headquarters.
The coach and talisman were the first to emerge from the aircraft, waving in greeting
As soon as the players deplaned, they headed straight onto an open-top bus waiting for them
Messi still clutched his glittering prize as he joined his teammates atop the champions’ bus
Messi was followed by his bleary-eyed teammates, including veteran Angel di Maria, whose strike had doubled Argentina’s initial lead.
Goalkeeper Martinez, whose dark arts during the penalty shootout sealed the victory, also received a warm welcome.
Despite the long-haul flight, the players were still in a jubilant mood as they waved to their adoring fans from the top of the bus, which read, ‘Champions of the World,’ on the side.
Despite the long-haul flight, the players were still in a jubilant mood as they waved to fans
Messi was followed by Angel Di Maria, whose strike had doubled Argentina’s initial lead
Goalkeeper Martinez, who performed heroics in the shootout, received a warm welcome
The flight – with the World Cup trophy in tow and which left at 5am Argentina time – refueled in Italian capital city Rome, before flying on to Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires.
In total there were two planes for the entourage of the champions, including players, coaches, staff and family members.
After landing, the jubilant players are expected to begin displaying the trophy to their adoring fans, including at the iconic Obelisk landmark in the center of the Argentina capital.
A bus reading ‘Champions of the World’ sat on the tarmac ready to transport the players
Argentina are set to parade with the trophy through Buenos Aires to the Obelisk on Tuesday
Fans back in the Argentine capital flooded the streets as they waited for the return of their national heroes.
Despite the flight’s late arrival, many stayed up to gather outside the headquarters of the Argentinian Football Association to greet the team.
They created a party atmosphere, playing drums and singing as they continued to celebrate their nation’s triumph on football’s greatest stage.
Many donned the national team’s jersey, in particular Messi’s No. 10, to welcome the players home.
Flags were draped and hung from any possible object, including vehicles, while a giant replica of the Jules Rimet trophy was suspended from a crane.
Some supporters were even spotted on top of horses waving the nation’s flag, while the replica of the World Cup trophy was suspended in front of them.
Despite the late arrival, many stayed up to gather at the headquarters of the Argentinian FA
They created a party atmosphere, playing drums and singing as they continued to celebrate
Fans flooded the streets in national team jerseys as they waited for the return of their heroes
Argentina flags were draped and hung from any possible object, including vehicles
A giant replica of the World Cup trophy was suspended over a street from a crane
Some supporters were even spotted on horseback as they waved the nation’s flag
One supporter rode down the street, passing underneath the suspended trophy replica
While the supporters back home were preparing to celebrate with the team, the players had already kickstarted the party on the flight home.
In a post on defender Nicolas Tagliafico’s Instagram page, video footage showed the Albiceleste singing happily rewritten lyrics to their now-famous ‘Muchachos’ anthem, complete with a drum and cymbal to provide plenty of noise.
The lyrics to the song went: ‘The final with Germany, I cried for 8 years, but that’s over. Why this year in Qatar, the final with the French, Dad won it again.
‘Boys! Now all that remains is to celebrate, we already won the third, we are already world champion! And we tell Diego to rest in peace, With Don Diego and La Tota, For the whole eternity.’
Argentina’s World Cup winners have rewritten the lyrics to their ‘Muchachos’ anthem – with drums and a cymbal – on plane from Qatar as thousands of fans await them in Buenos Aires
Stars including Lionel Messi (left) and Angel Di Maria (right) posed with the trophy on the plane
Stars including Lionel Messi and Enzo Fernandez posed happily with their precious gold passenger.
Messi’s post on social media site Instagram has already amassed more than 18 million views after being posted.
His post including 10 photos from the immediate aftermath of Argentina’s World Cup triumph has received more than 50million likes and counting, making it the second most-liked post in Instagram’s history and the most liked of any sportsperson.
Fernandez also commented saying: ‘GOOD MORNING. Going like this we celebrate ALL TOGETHER.’
Centre midfielder Enzo Fernandez (above) also kissed the trophy in front of his country’s flag
Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez (pictured), a hero in the shoot-out, cradled the trophy happily
Argentina prevailed by winning 4-2 on penalties, adding to the victories of 1978 and 1986.
Chaos reigned all around as Argentina’s players set off in different directions after the winning penalty was scored before they all reconvened as they kickstarted what must be the best party of all time on the pitch with friends and family.
Celebrations were then taken to the privacy of their dressing room, though content was released by various figures present.
Evoking the spirit of 1986 – not just through the way he has, like Diego Maradona 36 years ago, carried the team at times – Messi was held aloft atop of various individuals’ shoulders and paraded around the pitch as he clutched the prize he craved most.
Lionel Messi was held aloft with the trophy – echoing the images of Diego Maradona in 1986
Messi being held aloft evoked strong memories of Diego Maradona in exactly the same position 36 years ago
Securing football’s grandest prize on a night packed full of drama in Qatar, Messi matched the achievements of Maradona and in the process ensured his place alongside the late legend in the pantheon of true Argentinian greats.
While Messi soaked in the adulation from those holding him aloft, three of his team-mates took it upon themselves to clamber on top of one of the goal frames.
Leandro Parades, Rodrigo De Paul and Paulo Dybala perched on the top of one of the crossbars as they reveled in the atmosphere in front of the packed Argentina end.
Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul and Paulo Dybala clambered atop one of the goal frames
The three players led the mass of Argentinian support behind that particular goal in songs
The photograph showed them appearing to lead the chants from atop of the goal frame – though the net had been removed, perhaps as a souvenir for the team to take back to Buenos Aires. De Paul appeared to have part of it draped around his neck.
Argentina supporters inside the ground far outnumbered those supporting France, with thousands of Argentinians having travelled to Qatar for the tournament.
They led the raucous chants as the players laughed, danced and played with their children on the pitch while the World Cup circus began to wind down in front of their very eyes.