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Ecuador vs. Argentina, World Cup Qualifiers: Final Score 1-3, Lionel Messi hat-trick sends Argentina to Russia

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Cometh the hour, cometh the Messiah.

Soccer: 2016 Copa America Centenario-Argentina at Venezuela Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Under the biggest pressure of his footballing career, Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi put an entire country on his back and sent Argentina to the World Cup with a memorable performance. After going down in the first minute against Ecuador, the Albiceleste made a comeback for the ages thanks to their captain and best player, and Argentina don’t even need the Playoffs. They’re going to Russia, and it’s all because of Messi.

FIRST HALF

The first play of the game was a disaster for Argentina as Romario Ibarra put Ecuador ahead with a very good finish in the first minute of the match. The goal naturally made Argentina more nervous and they looked unsettled for a while. But Messi made things easier with a wonderful one-two with Ángel Di María and a very nice finish under Banguera to make it 1-1.

10 minutes after scoring the equalizer, Messi scored a sensational goal to put his team ahead. It was a truly amazing strike into the top corner, and Leo celebrated in a way that we don’t see very often showing just how important that goal was. The game was poor for the rest of the half, with Ecuador trying to go forward while Argentina looked to end the game on the counter, but neither team had the quality to make their plans work.

At halftime, Ecuador 1, Messi 2.

SECOND HALF

Argentina had a horrible start to the second half, with Ecuador dominating possession and committing many players forward to create trouble against a shaky defense from the visitors. But Messi once again came through when it mattered, scoring an absurd goal with a chip over the keeper to score his third of the match.

With a Messi hat-trick, a 3-1 lead and favorable results in the other games, Argentina were finally comfortable in the match, and the last few minutes went by without much action as the Albiceleste confirmed a place in the World Cup. They shouldn’t have been in this position in the first place, but when they needed Messi saved them. Not a surprise.


Ecuador: Banguera; Velasco, Aimar, Arboleda, Ramírez; Orejuela; Ibarra, Intriago (Uchuari), Cevallos (Valencia), Ibarra; Ordóñez (Estrada)

Goal: Ibarra (1’)

Argentina: Romero; Mercado, Mascherano, Otamendi; Salvio (Fazio), Pérez, Biglia, Acuña; Messi, Benedetto (Icardi), Di María (Paredes)

Goals: Messi (12’, 20’, 62’)