Lionel Messi scores a holy trinity of goals to ensure Argentina’s qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
A special performance under special circumstances. Lionel Messi scored a hattrick against Ecuador to take Argentina through to the World Cup in Russia.
Argentina went down by a goal in the first minute of play when Romario Ibarra scored for Ecuador after a slick one-two.
Argentina were shell shocked before Messi decided to take matters into his own hands. Messi dribbled through the centre and found Angel Di Maria inside the area. Di Maria returned the ball and Messi stabbed it home to equalize the game in the 11th minute.
Messi was not done yet however and in the 19th minute he anticipated a misplaced pass from Di Maria that ricocheted off a defender and took it on his stride before delivering a powerful shot onto the top left-hand corner of the net to give Argentina the lead.
In the 31st minute, Messi found himself in space on the right side of the Ecuador goal, just outside the area and the mesmerizing playmaker produced a slide-rule pass to set Di Maria free one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Di Maria’s right foot shot was thwarted by the keeper.
The first half ended 1-2 to Argentina but Messi had more in stock. Argentine defence looked nervy at times and Messi’s third in the 62nd minute sealed the deal. Picking up the ball 50 yards away from goal -- Messi dribbled past two and when it appeared that the Ecuador defender was about to shove him off the ball, Messi did something inexplicable. The shot can arguably be described as a chipped punt – it was probably something in between – and the ball moved fast but still with a delicate loop as it sailed over the keeper’s head and into the back of the net.
Argentina qualify for the World Cup courtesy of the 1-3 scoreline against Ecuador and secure third place in the South American qualifiers.
Uruguay and Colombia also qualified in a dramatic last round of matches. Brazil, who had already qualified as group winners, knocked out Chile in a 3-0 win.