FIFA 2022 World Cup winners Argentina are in action for the first time since their Qatar success Thursday when they face Panama in the first of two friendlies. The second is against Curacao next Tuesday which offers Lionel Messi and his Albiceleste teammates the chance to celebrate their success once more in their home country. Lionel Scaloni has gone with an expanded 34-man squad with a number of players delaying their international retirement now that they are world champions.
Atlanta United FC’s Almada opened the scoring in the 79th minute with his first international goal after capitalising on a rebound following a free kick by Messi that hit the left post.
Captain Messi finally got his 800th career goal and doubled the lead in the 89th minute with a brilliant free kick that went into the top right corner to excite the more than 80,000 fans chanting his name at the Monumental Stadium.
The party got started after the final whistle, with family members and children joining Messi and his Argentina teammates on the pitch with fireworks exploding in the background and fans cheering on their champion side, who hoisted replica World Cup trophies.
“I always dreamed of this moment, celebrating with you,” an emotional Messi told the crowd. “To come to my country and lift a Copa America, the Finalissima and the greatest of all the trophies, the World Cup.
“I know this is our day to celebrate, but I don’t want to forget all the teammates who were here before, who also put everything on the field to achieve this and we were very close before. They deserve all the recognition of the Argentine fans because they always did their best for these colors.”
A tearful Scaloni added: “Eternal gratitude to these players. Football belongs to them, and without them we wouldn’t have won the World Cup.
“Everyone who wears this shirt gives their all and sometimes the results don’t come. But this time we got it and it’s incredible.”
But the class of Argentina’s players eventually won out, with second-half substitute Almada continuing his strong form shown for his club side Atlanta United, and Messi transforming himself once again in an Argentina shirt.
There were celebrations and musical acts before the match, and the party continued after the final whistle, next moving to Santiago del Estero for what is expected to be another day of festivities on Tuesday against 86th-ranked Curacao.
This should be a successful homecoming for Argentina and a fairly easy win against limited opposition who will do their best to keep the score respectable.
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