Lusail, Qatar – At Qatar’s largest soccer venue, Lusail Stadium, there was little doubt who known as the tunes: Argentina followers far outnumbered Saudi Arabia’s supporters as the 2 international locations’ males’s nationwide groups took on one another of their opening World Cup 2022 match.
From the metro station corridors to the stands contained in the stadium – whose design is impressed by the fanar lantern – it was a sea of blue and white as Argentinians and lots of the Albiceleste supporters burst into tune and chants of “Vamos Argentina” (Let’s go Argentina).
“Our followers are the very best,” Mariano Alvarez, a fan from Rosario, the hometown of Argentinian celebrity Lionel Messi, informed Al Jazeera. “I do know I’m biased however actually we don’t let cash or work cease us from travelling to assist our staff,” he stated.
“For us, soccer is a like faith … along with Christianity,” added the 52-year-old, who’s attending his second World Cup after Brazil in 2014.
Like hundreds of different Argentinians on the stadium, Alvarez needed to journey for practically 24 hours to succeed in Qatar in a cumbersome journey that included transit in Spain.
In distinction, the Saudi fan figures pale as compared regardless of Saudi Arabia being Qatar’s neighbour to the west and sharing a land border.
Along with those that flew in from Argentina, individuals from international locations comparable to India, Pakistan, Egypt and Malaysia have been among the many enthusiastic crowd supporting Messi and his teammates.
As followers streamed in direction of the practically 80,000-strong stadium, a Doha-based music group known as Qatar Mayyappada welcomed them with drums and percussion – aspect by aspect with a bunch of Argentina followers who had introduced their very own musical devices and audio system to uplift the gang that gathered within the dozens round them.
“[Late Argentinian footballer Diego] Maradona and Messi unite the world,” 26-year-old Ashiq Siddiq, from India, informed Al Jazeera inside Legtaifiya metro station, the place he and different Argentina supporters have been chatting furiously concerning the staff’s formation and technique forward of the sport.
Messi’s ‘final likelihood’
The match in Qatar can be Messi’s fifth World Cup, and sure his final.
The 35-year-old, regarded by many because the world’s greatest footballer, can be hoping to construct on Argentina’s Copa America triumph final 12 months and win the one trophy that has eluded him up to now in his illustrious profession.
“That is the 12 months,” stated Alejandro Fronto, an Argentina fan who believes that is Messi’s greatest likelihood to assist his staff win the trophy. “Messi is not going to play once more after this in one other World Cup,” added Fronto.
“He can do it, I consider. The staff is extra united than earlier tournaments. They simply received the Copa America final 12 months so there’s perception within the staff.”
Fronti stated with a robust squad that additionally options the skills of gamers comparable to Rodrigo De Paul and Angel De Maria, Argentina can be arduous to beat.
“I solely fear about Brazil”.
On how Tuesday’s encounter will unfold, an optimistic Fronti stated will probably be “devastating” for Saudi Arabia, predicting Argentina will beat the six targets that England scored in opposition to Iran.
Saudi followers, nevertheless, didn’t appear nervous however have been hopeful their staff would trigger an upset.
“It’s going to be 1-1,” Mohammed Shaks informed A Jazeera at Lusail Stadium, cracking a cheeky smile as his associates burst out laughing.
“Many individuals know Argentina, however Saudi Arabia is the very best staff in Asia … I’m telling, there can be a shock,” he stated.
Nonetheless, the 29-year-old, draped in a Qatari and Saudi flag, stated even when they lose, he’s simply glad to be at this recreation.
“I’ll at the least get to see Messi in Qatar, which is like my second dwelling,” he says, noting that many Saudis like him have household within the host nation with whom they’re staying.