The Argentina national team played its first game in front of home fans in Buenos Aires since winning the World Cup in Qatar. That triumph was a long-awaited conquest for the South American nation. The last time La Albiceleste won the World Cup before 2022 was 1986.

Despite many of the fans in attendance not even being around for that win in 1986, the relief and sensation around El Monumental in Buenos Aires was palpable. Argentina hosted Panama to one of the most raucous crowds sporting sky blue and white in history. That, on its own, is saying something, given the passion Argentina fans exhibited during the actual World Cup in Qatar.

An announced attendance of over 83,000 packed into the home of River Plate. Before the game, the players emerged to fans chanting. That, along with the playing of the Argentina national anthem, moved players to tears. Even Lionel Messi, who is known for reserving emotion, seemed astounded by the experience.

There was still a game to be played. Albeit a friendly, Argentina did win the game against Panama, 2-0. MLS talent Thiago Almada scored his first Argentina goal. Then, Lionel Messi capped off the celebratory evening with a classic free kick goal.

Argentina fans get glimpse of World Cup trophy

After the game, the celebrations continued. Both Messi and Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni spoke to fans about the achievement.

“I want to thank you all for the love and recognition that you have been receiving, not only after the World Cup but also for the Copa America,” Messi said to the 83,214 in attendance and watching at home. “We said that we were going to give it all for this trophy.”

But, perhaps the biggest takeaway from that scene is the fact that seemingly everyone in the stadium, including Messi’s teammates, bowed to him and chanted his name before his speech.

While the first game back in Argentina was always going to draw more attention and celebration, the national side’s tour around the country is not done. Argentina is playing two games, including Thursday’s friendly against Panama, to commemorate its World Cup success. Similar celebrations are in store when Argentina hosts Curacao in Santiago del Estero on Tuesday, March 28.