Diego Maradona was back in the stands for Argentina’s second World Cup group game against Croatia and tried to inspire the players through sheer enthusiasm. Once again, he failed.
The World Cup winner may have been in an executive box at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Thursday night, but he made his presence among the fans felt with a series of jumps, yelps and fist-pumps… all before kick-off!
He was by far the most excited spectator on show at this World Cup to date, but his passion soon turned to despair when Argentina succumbed to their heaviest group stage defeat for 60 years right in front of him.
Yes, the team that was supposedly so good they could afford to leave Mauro Icardi at home is set to bow out after claiming just one point in group games against minnows Iceland and a rejuvenated Croatia.
Their 3-0 reverse against Croatia was a far cry from the 1986 side which Maradona inspired to World Cup glory; although a little help from VAR may have altered the ending to that football fairy tale.
It was a rollercoaster night of emotion for the 57-year-old, who, in the space of 90 minutes, went from spinning a ‘Messi No 10’ shirt over his head to being slumped in his chair with his hand over his eyes.
This is what football does to the best of us, albeit not quite as publicly.
To his credit, Maradona appeared to stay positive even after Ante Rebic had given Croatia the lead thanks mainly to a calamitously misplaced pass from goalkeeper Willy Caballero. In fact, it was the nosiest the Argentina fans had been during the game.
The players responded by pushing ahead for an equaliser, but visible signs of anger started breaching through the seams after Luka Modric doubled Croatia’s lead with a beautifully curled effort.
By the time Ivan Rakitic tapped home a third in injury time, Maradona was in his seat and looking inconsolable.
Whether he turns up to their last game against Nigeria is now a question we all want to know. But, more importantly, will the Argentina players?