Lionel Messi magic sends Argentina to the World Cup in dramatic finish to South American qualifying
Cometh the hour...
Argentina will be in Russia next summer, and it's all thanks to Lionel Messi (who else?).
Despite falling behind inside 38 seconds in a must-win final game away to Ecuador, the Barcelona forward scored a hat-trick - handing Argentina their first competitive win in Quito in 16 years.
The beaten finalists of the last World Cup had started the day in sixth place in the South American qualifying following a goalless draw with Peru in Buenos Aires in their last outing.
Fortunately for Jorge Sampaoli's men, the final round of qualifiers also saw Peru and Colombia - the two sides directly above them - play each other. Given that these sides were one point and two points ahead of them respectively, a win against Ecuador would be enough for Argentina to snatch a play-off position at the very least.
A late equaliser for Peru meant that Argentina leapfrogged both of them. This goal also had disastrous ramifications for Alexis Sanchez's Chile side. Losing 2-0 to already-qualified Brazil at this stage, Peru's point meant that they would be eliminated if they didn't score a goal. They committed all their players - including goalkeeper Claudio Bravo - into pulling a goal back, but were punished with a break-away goal from Gabriel Jesus.
Argentina, despite looking like missing out on their first World Cup in 48 years, finished third.
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