It was a vintage display from Messi, delivering for Argentina when it mattered most to erase fear that the two-time champion might not qualify for next year's finals in Russia. Argentina had got off to a disastrous start, conceding a goal in the opening minute as Ecuador took full advantage of hesitancy in the visiting side's defensive rank. Argentina stalwart Javier Mascherano failed to deal with a speculative long ball forward from Dario Aimar, directing a headed clearance into the path of Ibarra.
Lionel Messi:✅ Must-Win Match ✅ Whole Nation On His Shoulders ✅ 1-0 Down After 40 Secs ✅ Score A Hattrick ✅ Argentina Qualify WC GOAT ? pic.twitter.com/B8BHgXwHwm — SPORF (@Sporf) October 11, 2017
Ibarra calmly headed to team-mate Roberto Ordones who then steered a header back to Ibarra for the Universidad Catolica midfielder. It was the worst possible start for a shell-shocked Argentina, who had kicked off chasing their first victory in the Ecuadoran capital since 2001. For a while Argentina struggled to get to grip with a vibrant Ecuador, who looked to push forward at every opportunity.
Lionel Messi has now scored 44 career hat-tricks.Barcelona (39) Argentina (5) Out of this world. ? pic.twitter.com/SxiKi5MoLA — Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 11, 2017
But it was not long before Messi stamped his authority on proceeding, hauling his team back into the contest with a composed opening goal. The equaliser came in the 12th minute when Messi darted forward and quickly released Angel di Maria down the left. The Paris Saint-Germain attacker duly returned the favour as Messi raced into the penalty area to poke home a low finish past Maximo Banguera.
Lionel Messi is putting Argentina on his back when they need him most. pic.twitter.com/h7X3cxvMvK— B/R Football (@brfootball) October 11, 2017
Eight minutes later and Messi had fired Argentina into the lead with another virtuoso strike. When a loose ball fell kindly to the 30-year-old's feet just outside the area, Messi accelerated past a clutch of yellow shirts and uncorked a thunderous left-foot shot which flew into the top corner. Messi's double-blast galvanised Argentina, who gradually grew in confidence through the remainder of the half, carefully maintaining possession to frustrate Ecuador's hope of regaining the initiative.
Argentina qualify for their 12th consecutive World Cup.pic.twitter.com/yx6JimVjGV — Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 11, 2017
Messi then completed his hat-trick with the best goal of the night in the 62nd minute. Once again finding himself in space outside the Ecuador penalty area, the diminutive maestro burst clear and lofted an exquisite chip over Banguera from just inside the box to make it 3-1. Meanwhile, Uruguay and Colombia also booked their place at next year's World Cup finals on Tuesday in a thrilling final round of qualifiers that saw South American champion Chile eliminated.
23? ??RUS ??BRA ??IRN ??JPN ??MEX ??BEL ??KOR ??KSA ??GER ?ENG ??ESP ??NGA ??CRC ??POL ??EGY ??ISL ??SRB ??FRA ??POR ??ARG ??COL ??URU ??PAN— #WCQ ⚽️? (@FIFAWorldCup) October 11, 2017
Uruguay sealed their place in Russia with a 4-2 home win over already-eliminated Bolivia. Colombia qualified after a battling 1-1 draw with Peru in Lima. Peru's draw was good enough to give them a playoff berth which will see them take on New Zealand over two legs for a place in the finals.
Gabriel Jesus has now been directly involved in 11 goals in 11 games for Brazil.6 goals ⚽️ 5 assists ?️ Samba magic. ? pic.twitter.com/VSZgBKWfp2 — Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 11, 2017
But the combination of results spelt the end of the road for Chile, who were beaten 3-0 by Brazil and knocked out. RESULTS Brazil 3 (Paulinho 55, Jesus 57, 90+2) Chile 0 Ecuador 1 (Ibarra 1) Argentina 3 (Messi 12, 20, 62) Paraguay 0 Venezuela 1 (Herrera 84) Peru 1 (Guerrero 74) Colombia 1 (Rodriguez 56) Uruguay 4 (Caceres 39, Cavani 42, Suarez 60, 76) Bolivia 2 (Silva 24-og, Godin 79-og) POINTS TABLE Teams M W D L GD Pts Brazil 18 12 5 1 30 41 - Qualified Uruguay 18 9 4 5 12 31 - Qualified Argentina 18 7 7 4 3 28 - Qualified Colombia 18 7 6 5 2 27 - Qualified Peru 18 7 5 6 1 26 - Playoff Chile 18 8 2 8 -1 26 - Eliminated Paraguay 18 7 3 8 -6 24 - Eliminated Ecuador 18 6 2 10 -3 20 - Eliminated Bolivia 18 4 2 12 -22 14 - Eliminated Venezuela 18 2 6 10 -16 12 - Eliminated
Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia have clinched World Cup bids. pic.twitter.com/gFlBfLIWCq— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 11, 2017