Argentina breathes collective sigh of relief after victory against Japan and ends its three-year national nightmare
Argentina was so angry, they had a word for it. They called it ‘El pánico’.
The Argentines had just got out of the World Cup in Russia, where they’d reached the semi-finals, but their country was in great strife. The national team had been a catastrophe, finishing fourth. Their president, Mauricio Macri, was under threat of impeachment over an alleged cover-up of an allegedly dirty investigation into the country’s soccer federation. The country was in the grips of an economic depression. When the World Cup came to Buenos Aires this year, Argentines were treated to an unforgettable national football team.
But things looked different at the start of the Argentina campaign this summer. The team, which includes seven internationals and two South American legends, stunned the world by winning all three fixtures at Estadio Metropolitano. Now, three months following the World Cup victory, Argentina is back where it want. This was a victory not because they’d been better than their opponents but because they had proved that they were better than the opposition.
The country returned from the World Cup with a sense of purpose. The nation was ready to return what had been ripped away from it during the corruption scandal that had tainted Macri’s presidency.
Argentina’s victory feels significant, says Daniele Derm, chief football writer at the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport:
“It is symbolic of Argentina’s return to normalcy after a few years of the most traumatic crisis in its football history. For the national team, it is a huge breakthrough after the crushing disappointment of their failure to win the World Cup.”
The team’s star man, Lionel Messi, was in the thick of the celebrations, his face smothered by a giant Argentina flag and a picture of him with the World Cup trophy. He’d even lifted his shirt to show off his new No 7 jersey – a symbol of how far he’d come since his last World Cup appearance in 2010.
Lionel Messi celebrates with Argentina after their first win in a World Cup final since they lost to Germany in 1954. Photograph: Daniel M