10/10/2017 Sports

With 3 goals against Ecuador, Messi takes Argentina to World Cup

On the brink of being eliminated from World Cup qualifying for the first time in almost five decades, Messi scores all three goals in Argentina’s comeback victory

José Romero messi argentina
José Romero messi argentina
 

José Romero/LANA

 
 
 
 

When it really mattered and when the pressure was most intense, Lionel Messi delivered for Argentina.

On the brink of being eliminated from World Cup qualifying for the first time in almost five decades, Messi scored all three goals in Argentina’s comeback 3-1 victory on Tuesday against Ecuador at the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium in Quito, overcoming the thin air in the Andes.

 

José Romero messi argentina
José Romero messi argentina
 

José Romero/LANA

 
 
 
 
 

“It would’ve been crazy if Argentina didn’t play the World Cup,” Messi said. “This is what we came for. And on top of that we started behind. Luckily, we could react quickly and take the lead.”

Messi said the Argentina squad “will change, will grow a lot, will be stronger after this.”

But there’s still work to do for Argentina, the two-time champions, who lost the final three years ago to Germany 1-0.

 

José Romero messi argentina
José Romero messi argentina
 

José Romero/LANA

 
 
 
 
 

Messi has yet to hoist a major trophy for his country of birth, a contrast to the laurels he’s brought Barcelona.

“Messi does not owe Argentina a World Cup, but rather football owes him a World Cup,” Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli said.

 

José Romero messi argentina
José Romero messi argentina
 

José Romero/LANA

 
 
 
 
 

The top four teams in South America get automatic spots at next year’s tournament in Russia. Brazil has 41 points, clinched months ago. The other three advancing on Tuesday go in this order — Uruguay (31), Argentina (28) and Colombia (27).

 

José Romero messi argentina
José Romero messi argentina
 

José Romero/LANA

 
 
 
 
 

Uruguay beat Bolivia 4-2, Argentina won 3-1, Colombia drew 1-1 with Peru and last-place Venezuela beat Paraguay 1-0.

Peru (26) placed fifth and will keep alive its bid for a first World Cup appearance since 1982 after edging Chile for the South American spot in the inter-continental playoff next month against Oceania representative New Zealand.

 

Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
 

Perú vs. Colombia

Juan Carlos Guzmán/ANDINA/LANA

 
 
 

On a dramatic last day of continental qualifying tournaments, six South American teams, separated by only four points over 17 matches, had shots at the World Cup entering play.

Chile, after a 3-0 loss to Brazil, and Paraguay missed out. Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador were already out of contention.

 

Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
 

Perú vs. Colombia

Juan Carlos Guzmán/ANDINA/LANA

 
 
 
 

There was a major shock further north in the Americas with the U.S. slipping from third spot to fifth in CONCACAF qualifying for teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean with a loss in Trinidad and missing out on the World Cup. Panama secured the third automatic direct entry behind Mexico and Costa Rica, and Honduras finished fourth and secured a spot in a playoff against Australia.

 

Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
 

Perú vs. Colombia

Juan Carlos Guzmán/ANDINA/LANA

 
 
 
 

Three times Messi

It looked easy for Argentina. But it wasn’t, particularly after Romario Ibarra gave Ecuador a 1-0 lead in the first minute at 2,850 meters (9,350 feet).

“Even with a goal against us you could see the certainty of a team that knew how to play the game,” Mr. Sampaoli said.

 
 

Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
 

Perú vs. Colombia

Oscar Farje Gomero/ANDINA/LANA

 
 

Messi for sure, and running mate Angel di Maria.

Messi scored off a pass from Di Maria in the 12th, left-footing home from close range. In the 20th, Di Maria slipped a pass through to Messi, who drove the ball into the top corner from 15 yards.

Messi got his third in the 62nd, weighting a perfect 18-yard shot that went in just over the fingers of Ecuador keeper Maximo Banguera.

Argentina had scored only one goal in its last four qualifying games, and only 16 in 17 qualifiers entering the final.

 

Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
Juan Carlos Guzmán Negrini. PERU FOOTBALL
 

Perú vs. Colombia

Oscar Farje Gomero/ANDINA/LANA

 
 
 

“I won’t make any promises,” said Mr. Sampaoli, the third coach in this qualifying cycle for Argentina. The Argentine was successful as Chile’s coach, and at Spanish club Sevilla.

“The nationality of the best player in the world is luckily Argentine,” he said.

Colombia and Peru

Colombia advanced with a 1-1 draw in Lima, Peru. The result also put Peru into a playoff in November with New Zealand for a spot in Russia.

 

 Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/brazill football
Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/brazill football
 

Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/LANA

 
 
 
 

James Rodriguez gave Colombia a 1-0 lead in the 56th, but Peru’s Paolo Guerrero equalized in the 76th to give Peru a chance.

“We’re fifth,” so we get the playoff,” Guerrero said. “We could have done a bit more, but the big thing we can think of is the playoff.”

Chile out

 

 Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/brazill football
Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/brazill football
 

Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/LANA

 
 
 

Two-time defending South American champion Chile needed to win to get its third straight World Cup berth, but Brazil wrecked that with a 3-0 victory.

Peru’s 1-1 draw also removed any chance of Chile slipping in.

 

 Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/brazill football
Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/brazill football
 

Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/LANA

 
 
 

Gabriel Jesus scored twice and Paulinho got the other. It was the 12th consecutive unbeaten qualifying game since Tite has been in charge of the Brazilian team. He took over more than a year ago from Dunga.

Uruguay Set

 

 

Lucas Figueiredo/CBF/LANA

 
 
 

Uruguay was a cinch to advance. It did with style, beating Bolivia 4-2. Luis Suarez scored twice with the other goals coming from Martin Caceres and Edinson Cavani.

 

PAL/ALI/AP/LANA