The moment Angel Di Maria placed it past a diving Hugo Lloris, all hell broke loose at the Lusail Stadium. The noise, the chants, blue and white balloons. It’s 2-0 in favour of Argentina against France in a World Cup final and 95 per cent of the fans were on their feet. As they should be as the match transformed into one of the greatest finals of a World Cup as France twice came back from behind to level the game 3-3, Argentina prevailing 4-2 on penalties and Lionel Messi finally getting the his cherished trophy.
Lusail was bouncing. Some hugged, some started jumping, others were freezing the moment on their phones. World Cup final and Argentina were leading. Little did they know then what drama was to unfold later in the match.
Lusail was bustling from hours before the kick-off. As spectators started trickling in despite traffic snarls and long queues in the Metro. Sunday was also a holiday since it was host country’s National Day.
Drowned in a sea of blue and white, Phillippe from Toulouse was not gasping for breath though. In fact, he was enjoying the fact that France were badly outnumbered by Argentina fans. “Oh that’s okay with me,” the 55-year-old told The Telegraph.
Outside an Argentine family was straining its vocal chord. Rodrigo, Gieselle, daughters Maxime, Sophie, Lolo and son Mattias were signing at the top of their voice. “Boys, now we got excited again, I want to win the third I want to be world champion,” the anthem. “We are from Las Vegas. We came to Doha on Thursday,” Gieselle said. “We have spent $40,000 for this trip,” she added.
Somewhere Jasmine was waiting alone. She is from Thrissur but now stays here with her husband and two sons. The sons’ seats are in another cluster, so her husband had gone to ensure everything was in place. “My sons are Messi fans that’s why I support Argentina,” she said. Her voice was hoarse and when you ask if it was because of shouting for Messi, she replied. “Had a bad Covid and my voice has never been the same after that.”
This was Phillippe’s fifth World Cup final. He was in Paris in 1998 when France won, in Berlin when the French lost to Italy eight years later. He had travelled to Rio for the 2014 World Cup final and was witness to France beating Croatia in the 2018 summit clash. “I make sure I watch the final. But this is Argentina’s World Cup. France is not a sportive nation like Argentina. For Messi’s fans, its matter of life and death,” he said. Agreed Frenchman Alexander from Geneva. “Yes, they are very boisterous. But then we are also chasing Brazil’s record (two back-to-back WorldCups).”
Earlier, the fans had a harrowing time reaching the Lusail Stadium. Qatar Rail delayed access to the stations and long queues could be seen outside the metro stations. The police were struggling. Even during the first match on November 20, there were complaints about the facilities inside the Al Bayt Stadium. But after that and till Sunday, everything was in order.
The closing ceremony was modest where dancers celebrated A Night to Remember.