12 October, 2017
Lionel Messi produced a spectacular hat-trick when it mattered most to fire Argentina to the World Cup with a 3-1 win in Ecuador. La Albiceleste's record in Ecuador can be best described as ropey: they had only won on the road there three times, in 1947, 1960 and 2001.
Colombia qualified for the World Cup finals in Russian Federation next year, and went into the game knowing that a draw would get them through from the CONMEBOL (South America) conference.
Argentina's hat-trick hero Lionel Messi has commented on his Man of the Match performance against Ecuador, as well as nearly missing out on the World Cup. Needing a win against the rival South American side, Argentina now leads Ecuador 3-1, thanks to a hat trick from who else but Messi. Argentina needed him to pull them out of a deep, deep hole, and that's precisely what he did.
And that could deliver Messi the Ballon d'Or.
Speaking afterwards, Messi said: 'There was always the fear of coming here to play.
'We were calm, we achieved the goal and that is the most important thing. "Thanks to God, we fulfilled the objective".
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Meanwhile, the United States failed to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1986 after they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Trinidad and Tobago.
Argentina desperately needs to get the three points from the game to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and should provide a highly entertaining match in Quito.
Which country stands a better chance at the World Cup: Argentina or Portugal? Because what would a World Cup without Messi be? We have players playing overseas of some quality. As a outcome of that pressure we are stronger now, this qualification will make us stronger to face the future. We ended up suffering to enter this World Cup and hopefully we will get it once and for all.
There were songs, some with rude references to reporters who had questioned the players, and Messi ended his self-imposed media ban and addressed Argentinian reporters for the first time in nearly a year.
Messi's intervention might have been perfectly timed.
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). In 2013, Franck Ribéry had been the favourite for the award.