Argentina's loss to Saudi Arabia in their first World Cup game was a turning point in the changing room, coach Lionel Scaloni said on Tuesday, bringing out the grit to recover, win five consecutive matches and reach the tournament final.
"After we lost to Saudi Arabia, we felt a love and support from our fans, the entire country, our people, and that was amazing because it gave us the strength and energy that we needed to recuperate," Scaloni told reporters after Argentina swept past Croatia 3-0 in their World Cup semi-final.
"I try not to get emotional but it's difficult because I'm in the dream place for any Argentine. Representing my country is an emotional thing.
"Then you can win or lose, but it's about these guys (the players) and about our people. They have been with us in defeat and it is like nothing I ever experienced."
Unheralded Saudi Arabia notched one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history with their 2-1 win on Nov. 22.
But Argentina rose again thanks to a superb 35-year-old Lionel Messi who, on his fifth and final quest for the only major trophy to elude him, has participated in eight of the 12 goals his team have scored in Qatar.
He scored the first against Croatia and was elected man-of-the-match.
Scaloni said he had no doubt Messi was the all-time best player. "For me, it is just remarkable and exciting to watch from inside. Seeing him train, lead the changing room. Every time I see him, he generates something, a spark in his team mates, in people. Not only to the Argentines. Luckily for us, he wears our colours," he said.