Party time as Lionel Messi and World Cup winners Argentina arrive back home - in pictures

Huge crowds welcome back South American side who defeated France in Sunday's final in Qatar

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Thousands of fans turned up at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires to welcome home the World Cup-winning Argentina side on Tuesday.

Argentina secured their third world title after a dramatic penalty-shoot victory over France in the final at Lusail Stadium in Qatar on Sunday.

It had been a tense, rollercoaster match that saw France fight back from 2-0 and 3-2 down – thanks to a Kylian Mbappe hat-trick – after two goals from Lionel Messi and one from Angel Di Maria had seen Argentina twice seemingly on the brink of victory.

But it finished 3-3 after 120 minutes of pulsating action in what was one of the all-time great World Cup matches that would be then decided by penalties.

In the shoot-out, Argentina keeper Emiliano Martinez saved Kingsley Coman's effort and Aurelien Tchouameni fired wide. That gave substitute full-back Gonzalo Montiel, who gave away the penalty for France's third goal, the chance for the ultimate redemption, which he duly took by calmly sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way.

It meant that after his record 26th World Cup match, at the fifth and final time of asking, the 35-year-old Messi had finally lifted the famous trophy that Argentina had previously won in 1978 and 1986, the latter inspired by Argentina legend Diego Maradona.

Captain Messi and his teammates were all smiles as descended from the plane at Ezeiza International Airport shortly before 3am ahead what is scheduled to be a day of celebrations.

Messi, carrying the World Cup trophy, and manager Lionel Scaloni were first off the plane where they were welcomed by rock band La Mosca singing “Muchachos,” a song that was 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” before heading to the headquarters of the Argentine Football Association (AFA).

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

The players will sleep at AFA headquarters for a few hours before boarding the bus later on 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’s victory.

Updated: December 20, 2022, 12:38 PM