His country needed him and Lionel Messi responded – firing in three goals against Ecuador to ensure Argentina will be represented at World Cup 2018.
La Albiceleste have endured a terrible qualifying campaign, and headed into their match in Quito outside the four qualifying positions.
The bad form of Jorge Sampaoli’s team looked set to continue, with Ecuador going ahead in under a minute – and at that stage the game really could’ve gone either way.
This could either go south real quick ... or awaken the monster and open the flood gates for #Argentina.— Alexis Nunes (@alexisenunes) October 10, 2017
Some even thought this was all a ploy from the Argentina team so we could really see what Messi is capable of when pushed to the limits.
Lionel Messi's teammates just giving him a real challenge to add to his hero status, IMO— James Tyler (@JamesTylerESPN) October 10, 2017
Luckily for football fans the Barcelona player found his cape pretty quickly, and set about saving his team’s World Cup hopes. Because what would a World Cup without Messi be?
The 30-year-old’s first goal, 12 minutes in, came from an Angel Di Maria assist and gave the fans, and seemingly the team, hope.
Not too long after, Messi burst through Ecuador’s defence and sent a rocket into the top corner.
That goal was Messi’s 20th in World Cup qualifiers, more than any other player in the South American Football Federation.
To wrap it all up he added his third on the night and 21st overall, guaranteeing Argentina a place in Russia next year.
Following his display it’s fair to say there’s a lot of love for Messi on social media.
All Argentina's goals in the last year in competitive matches were either scored (5) or assisted (2) by Messi.— e. (@barcanumbers) October 11, 2017
Lionel Messi has now scored 44 career hat-tricks.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 11, 2017
Out of this world. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/SxiKi5MoLA
Messi is the best player in the world and he proves it time and time again 😤 #messi— Alan Cazares (@_alcz1) October 11, 2017
Leo Messi is the greatest player of all-time. a hat-trick in a must-win game to give Argentina their third-ever win in Ecuador. #GodLevel— Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt) October 11, 2017
The Argentina victory means they’ve qualified alongside group winners Brazil, second-placed Uruguay, and fourth-placed Colombia.
Chile, the winners of the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, miss out, while Peru go into a play-off with New Zealand.