Messi and what else? Relieved Argentina tackle reconstruction

Messi and what else? Relieved Argentina tackle reconstruction

The victory lifted Argentina to third on the South American qualifying standings from sixth, with the top four teams automatically qualifying for 2018 World Cup in Russian Federation.

The second goal was his 20th all-time in World Cup qualifying for Argentina, leaving him as the first man in the region to reach that mark.

Speaking afterwards, Messi said: 'There was always the fear of coming here to play.

Renewal will be based on a combination of veteran players and new faces of Argentinian football, a process Sampaoli has already launched through trial and error in tough circumstances, with a World Cup berth on the line.

Executives at Federation Internationale de Football Association and Adidas will be covering their faces and watching through their fingers on Tuesday night as Argentina attempts to avoid disaster and qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

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Argentina had only scored 16 goals in 17 qualifiers until Tuesday, and Messi admitted that "loads of things" crossed his mind when Ecuador pulled ahead less than one minute into the game.

At a crucial moment, Argentina needed Messi to step in and avoid what could have been a humiliating exit. "The group deserved to qualify". Because what would a World Cup without Messi be? The Switzerland vs Argentina football game played on February 29, 2012, saw Messi score his first ever worldwide hat-trick for his national team. We have players playing overseas of some quality. We ended up suffering to enter this World Cup and hopefully we will get it once and for all.

"I don't think he qualifies as the greatest that's ever played without winning the game's greatest prize".

Had Argentina need to go through the play-off then it may have been a different matter entirely, as votes would have been cast ahead of his decisive intervention (assuming he made one).

And on November 19, Ronaldo, the Ballon d'Or incumbent, hit a hat-trick that propelled his side to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil courtesy of a 3-2 win over Sweden on the night and a 4-2 win on aggregate.

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