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World Cup champion Argentina football team returns home to hero’s welcome

Thousands of fans lined the streets and trooped into a Buenos Aires landmark as the country’s football stars, led by their talismanic captain Lionel Messi returned home after winning one of the greatest World Cup finals.

Members of the team, led by Messi, were all smiles as they descended from the plane in Ezeiza, right outside Argentina’s capital, shortly before 3 am on Tuesday onto a red carpet that had been rolled out for the squad.

President Alberto Fernández has declared a national holiday on Tuesday, scheduled to be a day of celebrations in Buenos Aires.

Messi was the first player from the plane carrying the World Cup, flanked by coach Lionel Scaloni, who put his arm around the captain as they walked past a sign that read, “Thank you, champions.”

The players were welcomed by rock band La Mosca singing “Muchachos”, a song written by a fan to the tune of an old song by the band and became a popular unofficial anthem for Argentine fans at the World Cup in Qatar.

The newly-crowned champions of the world boarded an open-top bus and several, including Messi, could be seen singing the words to “Muchachos” while they waited for everyone to get on heading to the headquarters of the Argentine Football Association.

The bus moved at a snail’s pace as fans, many of whom were waving Argentine flags, swarmed the bus on a highway, eager for a glimpse of the players as law enforcement officers tried to keep them at bay.

The players will rest at the AFA headquarters for a few hours before boarding the bus later Tuesday that will take them to the Obelisk, the iconic Buenos Aires landmark that was a sea of people on Sunday afternoon after the team won the country’s third World Cup, and its first since 1986.

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‘Massive parties’

The day after the streets of Argentina turned into massive parties following the Sunday victory, many kept a close eye on the flight that brought the players home to celebrate. 

As the plane got closer to Argentine soil, almost 200,000 people were tracking its path online, and news channels gave live coverage of the arrival.

In the afternoon, people started arriving at the airport and outside the AFA headquarters in hopes of getting a glimpse of the team.

Many were already at the Obelisk, seemingly ready to spend the night there to ensure a prime spot for Tuesday’s festivities.

Messi held the World Cup on the plane. Nicolás Tagliafico, meanwhile, posted a photo of the World Cup buckled into an airplane seat as if it were just another passenger.

As of early Tuesday morning, there were no official plans for Fernández, or any other political leaders, to participate in the celebrations despite earlier rumours that the players would go to Government House, which was offered up for the festivities, according to Security Minister Aníbal Fernández.

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