Argentinian football fans around the world are celebrating following the team’s victory over France in what was one of the most exhilarating World Cup finals in the competition’s history.
But for French fans, it was disappointment and sorrow as their team came so close – but ultimately failed – to win two consecutive World Cups.On the streets of Buenos Aires, the celebrations reflect the elation – but also the relief – of what was an incredibly stressful match.
The joy people shared in the first half quickly turned to silence in the second – and many had their heads in their hands, unable to watch the penalties by the end. But now, hundreds of thousands of Lionel Messi’s, all with their number 10 shirts, are on the streets across the country celebrating their footballing legend and the winning team.
Barbeques have been started up and street sellers have been grilling Argentine steaks while fireworks go off in the middle of the city. The party has only just started and will likely continue in style until the early hours. This was a victory that Argentina didn’t just want to win – but needed to win.
The country has been been battered economically – soaring inflation means Argentinians often struggle to make ends meet at the end of every month.
One woman, Eli, was fighting back the tears when she said that this World Cup had given her a chance to feel happy, to feel united. But it’s also united the region. Normally Argentina’s neighbour Brazil is its biggest football rival, but those rivalries have been swept aside.
The pride is palpable among South Americans that Argentina was able to take this cup back from France. French fans were taken through the wringer this afternoon, as they groaned, cheered and wept their side to that most doleful of World Cup outcomes – runner-up.
What happened to the dazzling side of earlier this week, they were left asking – after a first half in which the players looked like they were acting out the game in slow motion.
Only after going 0-2 down and the arrival of replacement Randal Kolo Muani just before half-time, did France begin to show some of its original verve.
And as so often, it was the brilliance of Kylian Mbappe that made the difference. His hat-trick took him into the record books. From nowhere France was back with a chance
And not once but twice. Again in extra time France looked like it could achieve the most sensational of comebacks, as they made it three-all with a late penalty. What had begun as a boring and depressing reminder of how all great teams eventually topple off their pedestal, turned into a fantastic footballing lesson in the way fate gives hope to the hopeless.
But it could not last. When it came at the end to penalties, it seemed most fans knew they were in for it. France’s goalkeeper Hugo Lloris is not at his best in a one-on-one. Shortly after 7pm here, it was over. Silence descended on the cafe. Someone switched off the telly.
People started drifting off into the cold and rain. In Buenos Aires the jacarandas are blooming, and it is spring.