Following their World Cup triumph, Argentina's men's soccer team arrived in a jubilant Buenos Aires in the early hours of Tuesday, as crowds in the streets celebrated the return of their champions.
Captain Lionel Messi stepped off the plane first, cup held high, followed by his triumphant team on the airport's red carpet, greeted by reporters, officials and a live band.
Argentina's Lionel Messi emerges from the plane carrying the World Cup after landing in Buenos Aires on December 20, 2022. Agustin Marcarian/Reuters
When the team bus left the airport, it was immediately surrounded by supporters dressed in the national colors of blue and white.
Videos show the bus creeping along behind a police escort, surrounded by tens of thousands of people waving the Argentine flag and setting off firecrackers into the night.
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The atmosphere was filled with celebration as the crowd sang and danced;
the players, standing on the upper deck of the open bus, greeted their fervent supporters.
Hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to line the streets of the capital later Tuesday for the team's victory parade following their thrilling penalty shootout win over France in Qatar on Sunday.
Tuesday has been declared a national holiday for the celebration.
Lionel Messi leads the Argentina team off the plane in Buenos Aires on December 20.
The team will first spend the night at the training camp of the Argentine Football Association, according to the state media agency Télam.
Crowds of fans had camped out at the training ground on the Monday before the team's arrival, with photos showing supporters getting out of cars parked on their grounds.
Some lay on blankets on the grass while others lounged on picnic chairs around coolers.
A holiday is decreed in Argentina to celebrate the triumph of the team in the World Cup in Qatar
The team's long-awaited return continues several days of non-stop celebration across the country and among fans abroad, following Argentina's explosive victory against France.
Argentine players wave from the top of a bus after their arrival in Buenos Aires.
Superstars Messi and Kylian Mbappé squared off on the pitch, in what has been called the greatest World Cup final of all time.
Mbappé was defending the French championship in 2018 in the tournament in Russia, while Messi, 35, was playing his last World Cup match, looking to claim the trophy that had eluded him for so long.
Argentina took an early lead in the first half, but France roared again in the second half, reaching for a 2-2 draw that forced the match into extra time.
Fans gather in front of the Argentine Football Association training ground before the team's arrival.
Messi scored his second goal of the game to regain the lead for his team, but Mbappé scored a second penalty to earn a hat-trick and take the final to a penalty shootout, which ended in victory for Argentina after France missed two shots .
Hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets of Buenos Aires after the triumph, flooding the central Avenida 9 de Julio.
Videos on social media showed jubilant fans climbing street poles to wave the Argentine flag;
others on the ground danced, sang and chanted in celebration.
Argentine fans wave flags in front of the training ground for the men's team before their arrival in Buenos Aires.
Rodrigo Valle/Getty Images
The triumph in Doha was Argentina's third World Cup victory and first since 1986, when the legendary Diego Maradona led the team to victory in Mexico.
Sunday's victory also marked a turnaround in Argentina's fortunes after three recent major final defeats: the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 Copa América.
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Those defeats led Messi to announce at one point his retirement from international soccer, though near-unanimous national outcry convinced him to back down, before winning the Copa América in 2021.
Fans gather in Buenos Aires on December 19.
Now, with the World Cup also under his belt, Messi has cemented his status as one of soccer's all-time greats alongside Maradona and Brazil's Pelé.
“I can't believe we suffered so much in a perfect match.
Unbelievable, but this team responds to everything," Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni said after Sunday's game, according to Reuters.
“I'm proud of the job they did,” he added, fighting back tears as his players hugged him.
"I want to tell people to enjoy, it's a historic moment for our country."