The airplane transporting World Cup winners Argentina and their captain Lionel Messi back from Qatar arrived at the Ezeiza international airport in Buenos Aires at 2:40 am (0540 GMT) on Tuesday.
Having beaten France in Sunday’s thrilling final, the players will now spend the night at the Argentine Football Association (AFA) training complex near the airport, where thousands of supporters are waiting to greet them.
They will then begin a tour of the Buenos Aires city center from midday on Tuesday with millions expected out in the streets on what is a public holiday.
Messi, who scored twice in the final, was the first player to emerge from the plane, holding the World Cup aloft, with coach Lionel Scaloni right behind him.
Forward Julian Alvarez, a revelation in Qatar with his four goals, was one of the next players to emerge, alongside the man whose place he took in the team, Lautaro Martinez, who was carrying a drum.
A picture of Messi was emblazoned on the plane’s tail with the words: “one team, one country, one dream” on its side.
The players made their way from the plane along a red carpet straight to an open top bus as their World Cup theme song “Muchachos” by ska band La Mosca blared out.
Shortly afterwards the bus left for the AFA complex.
Excitement had been brewing since the party that began after Sunday’s final ahead of the players’ arrival.
A private reception at a VIP suite in the airport had been arranged to greet the returning players.
“I came because of my passion for Argentina. I love Messi, I love the entire team,” Alejandra Diaz, 55, a kindergarten teacher told AFP outside the airport.
Welder Javier Merina, 41, a Messi “fanatic” said he had come to the airport to try to get the star to sign a picture.
“If he doesn’t I will go to Rosario, to Funes (Messi’s home town) to see if I can get Messi’s autograph,” said Merina.
Messi, 35, finally crowned his record-breaking career with football’s biggest prize as he produced one of the greatest World Cup final performances, scoring a first-half penalty and netting again in extra time.
In doing so he emulated his predecessor as Argentina’s idol, Diego Maradona who inspired the country to their second world title with a series of match-winning displays at Mexico 1986.
“I remember ’86 but this victory yesterday was much more emotional and much more stressful,” architect Ricardo Grunfeld, 65, told AFP.
“I don’t know if there’s any difference with ’86 but this comes at a good time,” added Zulema Guereri, 80.
Argentina had led 2-0 with 10 minutes of normal time left and 3-2 with only two minutes of extra-time to go but Kylian Mbappe completed only the second World Cup final hat-trick in history to take the gripping final to penalties, before Gonzalo Montiel swept home the decisive spot kick.
Despite the huge numbers of revelers during Sunday’s festivities “people acted in a very positive way,” a spokesperson for the municipality said.
Fewer than 20 people were arrested for isolated incidents of violence or theft.
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