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Argentina’s World Cup winners arrive home to hero’s welcome

Argentina’s World Cup winners arrive home to hero’s welcome
Lionel Messi of the Argentina national soccer team descends a plane with the trophy of Qatar 2022 World Cup upon the team's arrival to the International Airport of Ezeiza, some 22km of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 20 December 2022. EPA-EFE/RAUL MARTINEZ

Dec 20 (Reuters) - Thousands of ecstatic fans gave Argentina's football squad a hero's welcome in Buenos Aires in the early hours before dawn on Tuesday after the plane carrying Lionel Messi and his World Cup-winning team mates touched down at Ezeiza airport.

The Argentine capital has been in party mode since their dramatic victory over France in Sunday’s final in Qatar, which gave the country its first World Cup win since Diego Maradona hoisted the trophy 36 years ago.

The players, wearing their gold winners’ medals around their necks and taking turns to hold the World Cup trophy aloft, waved at fans from an open-top bus as the lights from thousands of mobile phones sparkled and flags fluttered in the crowd.

Joyous fans sang to the beat of a drum and fireworks lit up the sky as the bus slowly wound its way through the crowd.

Thousands had tracked the plane, the state airline Aerolineas Argentinas AR1915, all the way from Doha and a stop-off in Rome.

The players are expected to spend a few hours at the Argentine Football Association (AFA) facilities near the airport before heading at noon to the huge Obeliso monument in the center of town, where hundreds of thousands are likely to gather.

Argentina beat France 4-2 on penalties after a scintilaing 3-3 draw, with Messi scoring twice France’s Kylian Mbappe netting three times.

Messi, 35, announced that the final would be his last match in the World Cup though he intends to play a few more games for the national side.

(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin and Miguel Lo Bianco; Additional reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford )

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