With that final match still days away, Tuesday turned into a day of joy as thousands of people descended on the capital’s iconic Obelisk.
The agonizing start of the tournament for Argentina was followed by a string of victories that have brought some much-needed joy to a country stuck in an economic standstill with one of the world’s highest inflation rates, closing in on almost 100% per year, and where close to four of every 10 people live in poverty.
“We’re all super excited, it’s been so long since we’ve lived a happiness like this. It’s beautiful, I mean look at this,” said Laila Desmery, a 27-year-old actress, as she pointed to people dancing and celebrating on the street. “It’s really unexplainable the joy that we’re going to be living through in the next few days.”
The sky-high hopes for the Argentina team only increased here after the quarter-final against the Netherlands, an agonizing match that ended in a penalty shootout and led to a collective feeling the team that had shocked the world by losing its opening match against Saudi Arabia had finally found its groove.
“This was the antithesis of the last match, we won easily, with ample advantage and without moments of so much tension and stress,” said Valentina González, 31, a social media manager.
Mariano Balestrasse said he was particularly proud of how the national team “has improved significantly every day and in every match you could see an improvement.”
In that sense, the shocking loss against Saudi Arabia “helped consolidate the team,” the 28-year-old architect said.
“This team connected a lot with the people, you can tell they’re very united and they transmit that,” said Abe Pérez, a 52-year-old civil servant.
In a traditional café in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo, those who had been nervously staring at the television screen exploded in jubilation when Messi scored a penalty kick, ending what had been an agonizing goalless 33 minutes.
“Messi, Messi, Messi,” the crowd started chanting as they moved their arms in a worshipping ovation.