The big and boisterous fan bases of Argentina and Mexico were out in force on Saturday as one of Latin American football’s biggest rivalries spiced up the World Cup in their latest clash.
Thousands of vociferous, flag-draped supporters of both sides have made the long journey to Qatar and have been a lively presence, organising street parties and teaching Spanish-language chants to Arab fans eager to join in.
“They are the craziest and the best! This is exactly what we were waiting for,” said Ibrahim Hussain, a Saudi Arabian wearing a Lionel Messi shirt, as he watched Argentines and Mexicans banter on the Doha seafront ahead of the Group C match.
Saturday night’s game at the Lusail Stadium was, however, a deadly serious matter for both sets of supporters.
Argentina began their World Cup with a shock 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia in a disastrous start for Messi’s fifth and final attempt to win the one big trophy that has eluded him.
Mexico, eliminated in the last 16 at the previous seven World Cups, scraped a 0-0 draw with Poland in their opener.
So both teams needed a win to get their tournament going and match the enthusiasm of their fans.
Thousands of them flocked to the nearly 90,000-capacity Lusail Stadium hours before the 1900 GMT kickoff, before thumping out their anthems at high-volume in a frenzied atmosphere as the teams came out for kick off.
Chanting songs at each other, the Mexicans donned Aztec warrior and Lucha Libre (freestyle) wrestling outfits, while the Argentines wore blue-and-white No 10 shirts for Messi and their late hero Diego Maradona. Some paraded Arab headgear in national colours.