Argentina’s World Cup win sparks a party in Southern California – Daily Bulletin

DOWNEY — A World Cup wormhole opened up Sunday morning and transported several hundred revelers from Southern California to Buenos Aires. The reason for the rift in the spacetime continuum: Lionel Messi’s and Argentina’s victory over France in penalty kicks to win the biggest, most beautiful sports tournament we’ve got.

It spurred a spontaneous light-blue-and-white flash mob that pulsated merrily outside of the Gaucho Grill in Downey, where hundreds of fans came together to watch the World Cup final, the line to get into the restaurant blocks long at 6:20 a.m., some 40 minutes before kickoff in Qatar.

Like the smaller but also enthusiastic crowd a few miles away at the Iguana’s Sports Bar in Pico Rivera, they’d been on a wild ride together after Argentina took a 2-0 first-half lead, lost it quickly in the second half, took it back in overtime only to lose it again in the 118th minute, on Kylian Mbappé’s third goal.

Then, finally, agonizingly, La Albiceleste won in a penalty shootout, 4-2, to earn its first World Cup championship since 1986 — and Messi’s first in five tries.

In the aftermath, ecstasy and joy. Hugs and tears. Disbelief and validation.

And quite a party.

The circle of drummers in Gaucho Grill’s parking lot were complemented by a chorus of singing voices and blasts from air horns and car horns. Revelers were uniformly in uniform, striking in Argentina’s traditional stripes. Unless, of course, they’d lost their shirts at some point in the festivities — or bought new ones out of the back of a nearby car from a commerce-savvy woman who’d come prepared.

The late Diego Maradona was honored too, the transcendent Argentine soccer star’s image adorning clothing and posters and not far from anyone’s mind.

And the country’s flag was everywhere you looked — waved through car windows, painted on smiling cheeks, draped over shoulders like superhero capes. One was being clutched with both hands by a gray-haired woman who rejoiced by shouting, to no one and everyone: “Campeón del mundo! Campeón del mundo!”

Alfredo Barrios sat on a curb, holding a replica World Cup trophy and soaking it in. Feeling wistful.

The 21-year-old Whittier resident moved to the United States from Buenos Aires a decade ago and was missing home, he said, though he was happy to be experiencing “a little piece” of the national celebration simultaneously taking over the streets in his homeland.

The local spectacle before him brought out Argentinian expats and their sons and daughters and moms and dads, family members and also friends and neighbors.

Latin America was supporting Latin America, including the Guatemalan, Ecuadorian and Mexican soccer fans I met, none of whom had any qualms about cheering the greatness of Messi and mates.

Oh, the greatness of Messi! Unquestioned, undebatable and, now, untouchable, existing on its own plane — that was the through line Sunday, from his birthplace of Rosario to Pico Rivera.

We got the storybook ending that we so seldom do: Messi putting to bed that GOAT debate, putting a period on “greatest of all time.”

Whether or not Messi — with his seven Ballon D’or awards, four Champions League trophies, 10 Spanish league titles, Olympic gold and his breakthrough 2021 Copa America win — needed to win a World Cup to claim that mantle, he’s got it now.

“Now, no one can say anything,” Barrios said.

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