When Argentina’s chances of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup were diminishing, they were brought back to life by their messiah Lionel Messi as the little magician scored a stunning hat-trick against Ecuador to book his nation’s tickets for Russia at the final night of the South American qualifying. After consecutive draws in their previous matches, the South American giants were facing unexpected exit from the World Cup for the first time since 1970 as they were placed at the 6th spot on the final match day of the South American qualifying. The two-time world champions led by Lionel Messi were facing Ecuador away at the at Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa in Quito.

The hosts were off and running inside the very first minute of the game with a wonder goal from Romario Ibarra, who took just 40 seconds to be precise in breaking the deadlock. The visitors responded to the first blood drawn by Ecuador with none other than the little magician when PSG winger Di Maria dashed down the left flank to set up Lionel Messi in the 12th minute of the game. Argentina who were a goal down in the 1st minute took the lead for the first time in the 20th minute when Messi got the better of the Ecuador defence and fired his explosive shot into the top corner, leaving no chance for goalkeeper Máximo Banguera whatsoever.

Bringing Argentina back to life, the 30-year-old Barcelona talisman Messi then completed his hat-trick in the 62th minute when he produced another moment of magic by outsmarting the keeper with a clever chip to end the contest 3-1, securing Argentina’s berth for the FIFA World Cup Russia that will take place next summer. Other match results saw Brazil thrashing Chile 3-0, forcing the reigning South American Champions to bid farewell to their World Cup hopes. A remarkable Gabreil Jesus brace and a goal from Barca midfielder Paulinho was enough to keep Chile out of the World Cup.

First Published | 11 October 2017 8:52 AM
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