The wait for the Cup was long for Argentina. Now the boot was on the other foot. At the mixed zone on Sunday night after the epic final, the newly crowned champions kept the journalists, many of whom had written off the team, waiting for over two hours. When they did make an entry, it was a dramatic one. Lionel Messi and his troops crashed through everything in front singing and dancing, no-holds barred.
“Putos periodistas, la puta que los pario.. (I don’t care what those &$#* journalists say!),” they sang, taunting the scribes, as Messi’s friend Sergio Aguero sprayed champagne.
The emotions were coming tumbling out. The wait for 36 years, the taunts, the heartbreaks had finally come to an end. “Look how beautiful she is,” Messi told Argentina sports channel TyC, pointing to the World Cup. “I can’t wait to get to Argentina to see how crazy this country will be.”
This was supposed to be his last match for the national team but the new world champion intends to carry on. “I want to continue by experiencing a few more games as a world champion.” Could it be till the 2024 Copa America? “I think we should keep the number 10 jersey prepared for the next World Cup if he (Messi) feels like playing,” coach Lionel Scaloni told a news conference. “He has earned the right to do whatever he wants to with his career.”
Scaloni then told a story about a conversation after the World Cup qualifier against Brazil. “I told him, ‘Leo, the disappointment may be intense because the people are very enthusiastic about this team’. He told me, ‘Who cares. Let’s go on because it will go well. And if it doesn’t happen, then it doesn’t matter. But we should try’. This cheered me up.”
On Sunday, unlike other matches when Messi just walked around till he got the ball, he was everywhere. Building moves, fighting for the ball, tracking back to snap at Antoine Griezmann’s heels.
A key architect of the win was Emiliano Martinez, the goalkeeper. If he hadn’t made that save with the scoreline at 3-3 to deny Randal Kolo Muani from point-blank range, it could have been curtains for Argentina. And then in the penalties, Scaloni said, “he promised to make two saves”.Martinez blocked Kingsley Coman’s shot and then forced Aurelien Tchouamenito shoot wide.
Scaloni’s decision to field Angel Di Maria on the left was also a masterstroke as it took the wind out of French sails. Di Maria was a constant threat till he was substituted in 64thminute. Also his move to bring out Nicolas Tagliafico and induct Pablo Dybala could not be missed and the mostly unused player took a brilliant penalty during the tie-breaker.“Yes, some credit goes to the coaching staff, but it’s the players who drive the engine,” the44-year-old Scaloni said.
So what’s next? “Let’s celebrate first. The happiness we gave to the people is huge boost for us. We will think of the next challenge later.”
Karim Benzema quit signal
Paris: France striker Karim Benzema posted a message on social media on Monday indicating that he is retiring from international football, a day after the national team lost theWorld Cup final without him.
After raising the Ballond’Or award as the world’s top player to crown his remarkable rise, Benzema’s dream of winning the World Cup was over last month before the tournament in Qatar even started as he tore a muscle in his left thigh during training with Les Bleus.
“I made the effort and the mistakes it took to be where I am today and I’m proud of it! I have written my story and ours is ending,” Benzema, who made his international debut in 2007, wrote on his 35th birthday, in a post accompanied by a picture of him in a France shirt.