Lionel Messi hat-trick fires Argentina to World Cup after crucial Ecuador win
Win over Ecuador ensures Albiceleste avoid missing out on showpiece for the first time since 1970
Lionel Messi’s three goals lifted Argentina into the World Cup on the last day of South American qualifying, keeping the Albiceleste from missing out on qualification for the first time since 1970.
The two-time champions – and losing finalists three years ago in Brazil – rode Messi’s hat trick in the thin air of the Andes to defeat Ecuador 3-1, after the home side took a 1-0 lead in the first minute.
The top four teams in South America get automatic berths to Russia. Brazil have 41 points and clinched their ticket months ago. The other three advancing on Tuesday went in this order: Uruguay (31), Argentina (28) and Colombia (27).
Uruguay defeated Bolivia 4-2, Argentina won 3-1, and Colombia drew 1-1 with Peru.
Peru (26) placed fifth after the draw. The fifth-place team in South America qualifies for a play-off next month with Oceania representatives New Zealand.