The chance to see Lionel Messi up close unleashed a certain madness as the Argentine national football team held their first open practice session for the 2018 FIFA World Cup here.
Some 500 people packed the stands on Monday at the Bronnitsy training center on the banks of a river with sandy shores and just a short distance from a traditional Russian orthodox cChurch with gilded domes, reports EFE news agency.
The fans never stopped chanting the name of FC Barcelona's star player, while waving both Argentine flags and Barca banners.
"Argentina will win the World Cup. It doesn't matter that it's not the best team, it has Messi. With him, all is possible," Dima, a 10-year-old boy wearing a replica Barcelona shirt with the striker's name, told EFE.
Added to the Argentina fans were more than 200 reporters covering the training session.
Messi decided to thank the fans for their support and their patience by signing autographs and having photos taken with his countless admirers after teh practice.
While it wasn't sure that Paulo Dybala would make the starting lineup for the World Cup, the Juventus striker also attracted a lot of attention among the fans and, though Javier Mascherano has opted for a golden retirement in China, he was also very much sought after.
Despite having a tough time qualifying for the World Cup and thanks to a sterling performance by Messi, the Argentines are once again one of the big favorites to win the championship.
Argentina, which lost 1-0 in the 2014 World Cup against Germany, will debut on June 17 against Iceland before going up against Croatia on June 21 and will close the group stage against Nigeria on June 26.