Argentina kicked off their South American Qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Ecuador at an empty La Bombonera, thanks to a first-half penalty from Lionel Messi. The game wasn’t very fun to watch and Argentina weren’t even close to their best, but they earned three important points at home.
This was a classic South American World Cup Qualifier: lots of physicality, very little entertainment. Both teams kicked the living hell out of each other, there was no rythm to any attacks, and while Argentina had more of the ball and spent more time on Ecuador’s half, it is hard to say they were the better team.
But they took the lead early in the half after Lucas Ocampos was fouled inside the box and Lionel Messi buried the penalty kick with confidence. Messi was active and tried to link up with teammates, but apart from the goal he scored the captain couldn’t really create any real danger.
At halftime, Argentina had the lead but Ecuador were starting to threaten, and the game still looked up for grabs ahead of the second half.
The final period was more of the same, despite Argentina changing to a back three looking add more width to the attack, and that produced a couple of chances but nothing special.
Ecuador tried to attack and look for an equalizer but clearly lacked the talent to do so, and Argentina simply looked to hang on for the win in the final minutes.
The final whiste came to end a hard-fought battle and an important victory for the Albiceleste, and Messi is off and running in the Qualifiers. Up next for Argentina is a brutal road trip to face Bolivia in crazy altitude, a game they don’t usually win. Let’s see if they’re up to the challenge and how well Messi can deal with nearly inhuman circumstances.
Argentina: Armani; Montiel (Foyth 84’), M. Quarta, Otamendi, Tagliafico; Ocampos (Domínguez 84’), De Paul, Paredes, Acuña (Salvio 66’); Messi, Lautaro (Alario 76’)
Goal: Messi (13’ pen.)
Ecuador: Domínguez; Ferigra (Preciado 46’), Arboleda, Arreaga, Estupiñán; Gruezo; Ibarra (Plata 64’), Franco, Caicedo (Ibarra 79’), Mena (Estrada 87’); Valencia