Argentina were on the brink of not making it to the 2018 World Cup in Russia and a tournament without them – and Lionel Messi – did his magic.
They had to get a result against Ecuador to make sure they finished inside the top five in the South American qualifying with the fifth of those sides heading to a playoff battle with New Zealand.
It didn’t start well for the Argies one little bit when Ecuador took the lead after just 40 seconds and Messi’s face told the whole story.
However, then the Barcelona icon took over and proved why he is one of, if not the best player of all-time.
The 30-year-old would score a sensational hat-trick to lead his country past Ecuador and see them join Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay inside the top four with Peru claiming the fifth and final spot.
“Luckily, we reacted quickly after Ecuador scored,” Messi said after the celebrations in Quito had died down following Argentina’s 3-1 win. “Thank God, we fulfilled our objective.”
After a terrible campaign that saw Argentina woefully under-perform, it was left to Messi to carry his side to the finals in Russia next year.
Messi has been accused of not showing much personality in the past and often keeps a stoic exterior, but in the changing rooms after his vital hat-trick, the five-time Balon d’Or winner looked like just one of the boys.
As you can see from the video, Messi is joining in with the singing and dancing and looks absolutely delighted – as well he should.
Seeing a happy Messi gives meaning to life. pic.twitter.com/e7CYKf7uo5
— Barça (@semprebarcaa) October 11, 2017
After the match, Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli told a news conference: “I told the group: Messi did not owe the World Cup to Argentina, but football owed the World Cup to Messi.
“The nationality of the best player in the world is luckily Argentine.”
Sampaoli went on to suggest that there was pressure on his team getting Messi to the World Cup just as much as anything else.
“Football, the World Cup, could not be left without Messi. We had to play with that in mind. As a consequence of that pressure, we are stronger now, this qualification will make us stronger to face the future.”
Either way, it’s good to see Messi rightfully enjoying his heroics.