Published: 14:56, March 25, 2023 | Updated: 15:02, March 25, 2023
Messi 'grateful' after homecoming celebration
By Xinhua

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi waves during a recognition ceremony for the World Cup winning team, following the friendly football match between Argentina and Panama at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires on March 23, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

BUENOS AIRES - Lionel Messi has sent a heartfelt message to fans after Argentina's 2-0 victory over Panama in the Albiceleste's first match since winning the World Cup in December.

Thursday's friendly was played in a festive spirit as more than 80,00 people crammed into the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires to see their World Cup heroes.

"Many times I imagined what it could be like to return to my country as a world champion but now I have no words to explain what I feel, how grateful I am to all the people for their love," Messi said in a social media post on Friday.

Messi netted his 800th career goal and Argentina's second for the match with a superb late free-kick. The strike means he has now scored 99 times for Argentina, in addition to his 701 goals at club level.

In an emotion-charged ceremony after the match, Argentina's players lifted replica World Cup trophies as they were surrounded by their families.

"These are very, very special days and I can only tell you that I am immensely happy to see all the Argentine people enjoying and celebrating what was another success for everyone. Thank you," Messi added.

The Albiceleste will now turn their attention to Tuesday's friendly against Curacao in Santiago del Estero.