Lionel Messi’s hat-trick ensured that Argentina will book a flight next summer to the FIFA World Cup in Russia, after they endured a frustrating qualifiers.
After much criticism and the sacking of a coach, it was much relief for the Argentine fans as Messi’s masterclass rescued what was looking like a disaster from early in the game.
The Albiceleste fell behind to Ecuador from the first minute of the game and it was looking like the journey to Russia will be a bridge too far for them. However, cometh the moment, cometh the Messi. The little legend, who is not little going by the measure of his feats, pulled one out of his magic hat and scored three magnificent goals.
“Luckily, we reacted quickly after Ecuador scored,” Messi said after the post match celebrations in Quito. “Thank God, we fulfilled our objective.”
So what does this mean to Argentina and the millions of football fans in the country?
Indirect Revenge on Chile
With Argentina sitting on the edge, Chile needed a result in Sao Paolo to secure the ticket to Russia, but second half goals from Paulinho and Gabriel Jesus ensured that the Chileans fell from third on the log to sixth, failing to even qualify for the inter-continental playoff.
Argentine fans can secretly have a laugh at their South American counterparts who robbed them of a Copa America trophy, not once, but twice – CONSECUTIVELY.
Messi gets another chance – probably the last.
Argentina were runners up in Brazil last time, and will be hoping to get one step further this time around. That means that Messi has one more chance to finally win a senior national team trophy – the world cup for that matter.
The debate about Messi being the greatest ever has been derided by the Barcelona star’s forward to clinch a major senior trophy with his national team. Something Cristiano Ronaldo has managed to achieve for Portugal, for those who love to tow the line of the Ronaldo-Messi comparison.
Russia 2018 will be Argentina’s 17th appearance at the FIFA mundial, coming behind only Brazil, Italy and Germany in number of appearances. Italy and Germany may battle it out in Europe, but Argentine fans still want to hold their heads high in front of their fierce South American rivals. Not playing in next year’s world cup would have been a sore patch in the feet for them.