There had been Argentine banners being hung from rafters and tied round columns and fixed to partitions. There had been Argentine flags, six ft excessive, fluttering and flourishing above Doha’s streets. The overwhelming majority of them bore the identical immediately recognizable face: not Lionel Messi, however Diego Maradona.
It was the identical with the songs that echoed across the metropolis from lunchtime onward, as gaggles of Argentine followers encountered each other: songs about Diego, watching from the sky; songs about Diego, passing his mantle on to Messi; songs about Diego and how a lot he’s missed.
For many followers, this World Cup is, after all, about Messi: his final probability to win the one trophy that has eluded him — apart from the Carabao Cup — all through his glittering career. At final, Argentina appears to have crafted a workforce that may get the most effective out of him, one which has not lost in 35 video games coming into the match and one which has arrived in Qatar with a real perception that the tercera, the nation’s third World Cup, is across the nook.
But judging by these Argentines who’ve arrived, for them this month is as a lot about honoring Maradona as it’s about adoring Messi.
It is, in spite of everything, the primary match since Maradona’s demise two years in the past this week, the primary World Cup with out the presence in some type of the person who defined it for Argentina: as an inspirational participant, as a cautionary story, as an impassioned coach, because the nation’s most ardent cheerleader. The gamers need to win it for Messi. The followers’ songs, their banners and their flags make it clear that they’re right here, as a lot as something, to rejoice Maradona.