Panama players lined up in droves for an opportunity to take a photo with Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi after Argentina’s 2-0 win on Thursday.
Argentina returned to action for the first time since their stunning 2022 World Cup campaign in Qatar, which culminated in a penalty shootout win over France in a thrilling final.
Thiago Almada fired the three-time World Cup champions into a second-half lead after pouncing on the rebound of Messi’s free-kick, which hit the left side of the post.
Messi, who has now scored a staggering 800 times in his senior playing career, sealed Argentina’s win with a stunning free-kick in the 89th minute.
Following Argentina’s win, footage emerged of Panama players requesting a photo opportunity or asking for their shirts to be signed by Argentina captain Messi.
“At the end of the day, 90 per cent of these guys probably grew up watching him,” one fan said.
A Twitter user added: “Panama players don’t gotta live anymore. Life fulfilled.”
“Panama players are so lucky,” a third wrote.
Someone else commented: “The GOAT.”
Another fan tweeted: “I need to see him play in person, man.”
Everyone wanted a photo with Lionel Messi 📸 pic.twitter.com/NAwfGPQQwj
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 24, 2023
Messi received a spine-tingling reception as he presented the World Cup trophy to the Argentina fans at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires.
Speaking after the match, the 35-year-old Argentine forward said he had always “dreamed” of the moment he could bring the iconic trophy back to Argentina.
“I always dreamed of this moment, to celebrate with you in my country Argentina, lifting the greatest thing that is the World Cup,” he said.
“Let’s keep doing what we are doing and enjoy this because we have been waiting a long time to win it again. Let’s enjoy the third star.”
Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni added: “Eternal gratitude to these players. Football belongs to them, and without them, we wouldn’t have won the World Cup.”