Argentina beat Ecuador 3-1 in Quito despite going down 38 seconds into the game(!), they started the day sitting 6th in the table but finished 3rd, qualifying directly for the World Cup finals, saving themselves from the risky procedure of the playoffs.
Lionel Messi scored his first hat-trick ever in a World Cup qualifier, and his coach couldn’t praise him enough once the game was over and the Argentines knew their… nightmare was over as well.
I told the group: Messi did not owe the World Cup to Argentina, but football owed the World Cup to Messi. The nationality of the best player in the world is luckily Argentine
Jorge Sampaoli told reporters, relieved beyond description to have seen his team cope with that early goal by Ecuador.
I think the game became complicated in terms of planning. It became more difficult because Ecuador scored in the opening minute. But we, as a group, had the ability to appreciate the fact that the match lasts 90 minutes
the Argentina coach said.
Football, the World Cup, could not be left without Messi. We had to play with that in mind. As a consequence of that pressure we are stronger now, this qualification will make us stronger to face the future. We had the possibility to help him to be in another World Cup. He is the best player in the history of football and I’m very excited to be in a group near him
an… ecstatic Sampaoli said, having celebrated the win/qualification as crazily as any of his players.