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    Mad with joy

    ROSARIO, ARGENTINA (AP) – The streets of Lionel Messi’s hometown of Rosario erupted in celebration on Sunday after Argentina beat France to win its third World Cup title.

    “We’re champions, which is all we wanted, more than anything for (Messi) and for the whole team,” Santiago Ferraris, 25, said.

    Argentina’s three goals in the 3-3 draw were scored by Rosario natives, with Messi, who came up from local team Newell’s Old Boys, scoring two and Angel Di Maria, who once played in rival local team Rosario Central, one.

    Rosario, just like the rest of the country, was paralysed during the nail-biting match that ended in a penalty shootout, which Argentina won 4-2.

    Tens of thousands of people descended on the National Flag Memorial, the symbol of Argentina’s third-largest city, to celebrate Argentina’s victory. People started arriving as soon as Messi lifted the international trophy and were still there well into the evening.

    A Lionel Messi mural covers a building in Rosario. PHOTOS: AP
    Students who graduated from the General Las Heras elementary school, where Lionel Messi studied, pose for a photo in front of a Messi mural

    The local football rivalry between Central and Newell’s was set aside on Sunday as seemingly the entire city celebrated the national team’s victory.

    “It’s madness. It surpassed my expectations with so many people on the same wavelength, everyone celebrating. That’s what’s most beautiful about today,” said Jeremias Regolo, 26, who joined the celebrations at the National Flag Memorial.

    Micaela Junco, 28, said the victory felt special to her because it was the first World Cup title in her lifetime. The last time Argentina won the tournament was in 1986.

    “It’s an incredible feeling for Argentina to win, for all of us to be pulling in the same direction,” Junco said. “Being the best in the world is priceless.”

    Junco felt “proud” of the key roles Di Maria and Messi played in the match “because they are from Rosario. We have the best players here in Rosario”.

    Fans also took from how the triumph gave the country a respite from its usual worries at a time when it is suffering one of the world’s highest inflation rates, of almost 100 per cent annually.

    “Argentina deserved this happiness, beyond everything bad that is happening in the country,” Rodrigo Medina, 21, said. “The Rosario boys have always shown they’re up to the challenge.”

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