Lionel Messi hat-trick seals World Cup berth for Argentina
Poriborton Desk 1:02 pm, October 11, 2017
Lionel Messi hit a superb hat-trick for Argentina to beat Ecuador and secure a World Cup spot. The 30-year-old delivered when his country needed most as they avoided a qualification disaster to book their trip to Russia, reports The Sun.
The two-time World Cup winners and 2014 runners-up were in real danger of missing the tournament for just the second time in their history.
A stuttering qualifying campaign saw Argentina head into their tough final game in sixth place in the South America standings with only the top four guaranteed a World Cup spot.
The Argentines needed a win at Ecuador, and they got off to the worst possible start when Romario Ibarra gave the hosts the lead after just 40 seconds.
But, with his side in danger, Messi stood up to be counted.
The Barcelona man equalised in the 12th minute after a one-two with Angel Di Maria, and he doubled his tally six minutes later with a venomous strike into the top corner.
Messi completed his hat-trick on the hour mark with an exquisite chip to seal his spot in Russia next year.
Argentina's win took them into the top four automatic qualification places in South America.
And that meant Copa America holders Chile were the team to miss out on the World Cup.
Brazil beat Chile thanks to goals from Paulinho and Gabriel Jesus (2) to finish first and squash their World Cup hopes.
Alexis Sanchez and Co will not be going to Russia after sliding down to sixth place in the final standings.
Chile have won the Copa America on the last two occasions, but became one of the best football nations to miss out on a trip to Russia.
Uruguay joined Brazil, Argentina and Colombia in sealing their World Cup spot thanks to a 4-2 win over Bolivia in Montevideo.
Jose Paolo Guerrero scored a 76th-minute equaliser for Peru against Colombia, and they will face New Zealand in a two-legged play-off next month.
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