After too many years in which it meant suffering and disaffection, Argentina is consolidated as a synonym of party and joy for Lionel Messi, who on Thursday celebrated in a friendly match with Panama the world title won in December in Qatar.

Messi, 35, scored the 800th goal of his career in the 2-0 win over the Central Americans, a game that was a mere excuse for the Argentine team to celebrate its three-time championship before 83,000 people at the Monumental Stadium, the same scene of the first title, that of 1978.

That 800th goal came from a direct free-kick, the 62nd of Messi's career, which surpasses Maradona's 61. On a summer night in Buenos Aires, Messi showed a smile from ear to ear, happy with the affection of the public.

"Thank you for all the love we have been receiving. We were going to do everything we could for this. I always dreamed of this moment, of being able to celebrate with you, of being able to come to my country, to Argentina, to lift a Copa America, the Finalissima and the World Cup," said the PSG striker with microphone in hand already caressing the World Cup won in Qatar 2022.

Messi recalled past frustrations, such as defeats in the finals of the 2015 and 2016 Copa America and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"We are celebrating the champions, but I don't want to forget all the teammates who passed by and who were also very close. They deserve everyone's respect and recognition as well. Let's enjoy this because we had a long time to win it again. We know it's very difficult. Hopefully it won't take many years to do it again. Let's enjoy the third star."

Argentina will play another friendly next week against Curaçao, a low-level opponent. Tickets for Tuesday's match in Santiago del Estero, the country's oldest city, sold out in a matter of minutes.

Lionel Scaloni, the coach of Argentina, was so moved that his face was bathed in tears: "It's very difficult to win a World Cup, I think we have to enjoy it. Seeing people like this is priceless. In my life I thought I was going to have this recognition, and they are now realizing everything they accomplished. This is for you and thanks to you."

The end of the night found the players singing and dancing in midfield alongside their partners and their children, several of whom improvised a match in which they celebrated the goals as if they were those of their parents in Qatar.

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  • Argentina
  • Argentina national football team
  • Leo Messi