BUENOS AIRES - After a long-suffering match against the Netherlands, Argentines traded anxiety for jubilation on Friday after a razor-close victory sent their team to the semifinals in Qatar.
On a national holiday with blisteringly high temperatures, Argentina supporters gathered in houses, bars and public squares to watch their team, led by star Lionel Messi, beat the Netherlands 4-3 in a penalty shootout.
On Tuesday, they will face Croatia, which defeated Brazil earlier Friday, leaving Argentina the final team from the Americas in contention to become world champions.
"Tremendous madness, I swear my heart was broken, I couldn't take it anymore," one fan said in a square in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires where he watched the game on a giant screen with some 30,000 other fans.
Argentines remain hopeful their team can win the country's third World Cup, after victories in 1978 in Argentina and 1986 in Mexico, where they were led by the late Diego Maradona.
"Everything happened in the game. I was happy, nervous, but always rooting for the team," said a fan in Palermo, where supporters waved flags with the image of Messi and Maradona.
"We suffered, but we won," said another.
(Reporting by Horacio Soria; Writing by Lucila Sigal; Editing by Stephen Coates)