As soon as once more, and now as a World Cup champion, Lionel Messi got here to Argentina’s rescue when the staff most wanted him.
The 36-year-old captain scored from a free kick within the 78th minute to provide Argentina a 1-0 win in opposition to Ecuador within the first spherical of South American World Cup qualifying on Thursday.
It was Messi’s 104th purpose in 176 worldwide appearances, together with his twenty ninth in World Cup qualifying. These 29 objectives equal the file of Luis Suárez of Uruguay.
Greater than 83,000 followers on the practically full Monumental de Nuñez Stadium have been getting jittery till Messi scored, with their staff having hit the submit and the bar throughout the match, and providing Ecuador a number of possibilities to counter.
Ecuador stored Argentina at bay throughout many of the match with a line of defense of 5 gamers, led by Moisés Caicedo, which put Messi underneath wraps throughout many of the conflict in Buenos Aires. However the decisive second of the star was sufficient to beat the hard-working Ecuadorians.
Goalkeeper Hernán Galíndez didn’t transfer as Messi’s shot from the sting of the field went to the again of the online, close to the left submit.
Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni, who accomplished 5 years within the job on Thursday, stunned followers with a unique formation from the one which performed and received the World Cup last over France in Qatar. He benched Ángel Di María and began Nicolás González.
Scaloni additionally used Lautaro Martínez as his middle ahead as an alternative of Julián Álvarez. Argentina’s coach, who’s but to lose a match in South American qualifying, introduced Di María in throughout the second half, however Argentina continued struggling to get clear possibilities.
“Each match wants 100% from us on this qualifying,” Messi mentioned after the match. “This was a tricky match to play, a really bodily one.”
Earlier, Colombia beat Venezuela 1-0 with a header by Rafael Santos Borré within the forty sixth minute. Paraguay and Peru drew 0-0.
Argentina and Colombia lead the standings with three factors. Paraguay and Peru are subsequent with one. Ecuador has minus three factors due to a FIFA punishment that induced a deduction in South American qualifying for the falsification of start data of defender Byron Castillo, who’s of Colombian origin.
The primary spherical of South American qualifying might be accomplished on Friday when Brazil hosts Bolivia and Uruguay performs in opposition to Chile.
All 10 groups within the area will play their second spherical on Tuesday.
The 2026 version of the World Cup in the US, Mexico and Canada is increasing to a 48-team format. The main six positions in South America will safe a direct spot. The seventh-place staff will contest an intercontinental playoff for a berth.