Canadian soccer fans stood in chilly pre-dawn lineups, painted their faces and ultimately wound up on a wild ride on Sunday as they packed bars to take in a particularly tense World Cup final.
But it was Team Argentina’s fans who ultimately got to celebrate after the squad headed by superstar Lionel Messi secured the win in penalty shots.
At Cafe Diplomatico in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood, fans in a packed tent screamed and jumped up when Argentina took the title, hugging each other and waving flags. Music filled the tent and fans danced in celebration, with many screaming Messi’s name.
“That is a perfect representation of what this beautiful game is,” Argentina fan Ian Saya said as he celebrated the win.
“It makes you smile, it makes you cry, it makes you laugh, it makes you lose your voice.”
Argentina’s victory in soccer’s marquee matchup was particularly hard-fought.
Jubilant Argentina fans, buoyed by their team’s two goals in the first half of regulation play, watched in chagrin as defending World Cup champion France struck back to tie the match 2-2 in the second half.
After one goal by each side in extra time, Argentina ultimately won in a penalty shootout.
Saya, who was front and centre watching the game wearing blue-and-white face paint, said he experienced many emotions during the game’s final half-hour.
Longtime Argentina fans Shehzad Merali and Harneet Brar said just before the second half that a World Cup win would secure an important career milestone for Messi, 35, who had never won a World Cup before and scored twice on Sunday.
After the game, Merali said the win cements Messi’s legacy.
“Everyone was saying that he’s not the greatest of all time because he never won the World Cup,” said Merali.
“What are they going to say now?”
Camila Schiappacasse, who arrived in Canada two weeks ago from Argentina, was waiting outside the bar as the game began. She said she cried at Messi’s first goal and was hopeful about the final results.
Afterward, with an Argentina flag wrapped around her shoulders, she described the game as “intense.”
“In Argentina, you suffer to win,” she said. “You don’t win easily.”
The largely pro-France crowd at bar L’barouf in downtown Montreal, on the other hand, was left disappointed.
Some fans had tears in their eyes as they filed out of the venue.
“Honestly, I’m so sad,” said Alexis Krass of France’s loss.
“My heart hurts. The last 15 minutes I had hope. But it was not meant to be.”
France supporters — subdued after their side was blanked in the first half — expressed optimism the team could bounce back.
That optimism appeared to pay off in the second half of regulation play when France scored twice in quick succession. Assembled fans exploded in cheers and some even wept when the team pulled even.
“This is so incredible! We are going to win,” predicted Thibault Herbert.
But it was not to be. The extra time saw France once again meet Argentina goal for goal until the decisive penalty shots.
Kylian Mbappé scored a hat trick for France and was ultimately named the top scorer at the tournament in Qatar, but wounded up being consoled on the field by French President Emmanuel Macron after the final.
— With files from Marisela Amador in Montreal and The Associated Press
Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press