Cometh the hour, cometh the man: Lionel Messi powers Argentina to World Cup 2018

Published: 11th October 2017 10:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th October 2017 11:07 AM  

Argentina's Lionel Messi, center, fights for the ball against Ecuador's Robert Arboleda, left, and Ecuador's Jefferson Intriago during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. | AP
Argentina's Lionel Messi, center, celebrates after scoring against Ecuador during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium in Quito, Ecuador, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. The Barcelona superstar scored twice inside the opening 20 minutes to give Argentina the lead after Ecuador's Romario Ibarra had stunned the visitors with an opening goal after 38 seconds.
Argentina's Lucas Biglia, right, fights for the ball against Ecuador's Romario Ibarra during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match. Argentina had started the day outside the automatic qualifying positions, needing to secure their first win in Quito since 2001 to be certain of claiming at least a playoff place. | AP
Argentina's Nicolas Otamendi, left, fights for the ball against Ecuador's Roberto Ordonez. It looked as if Argentina's worst fears were set to become a reality after Ibarra's opening goal in the first minute. | AP
Argentina's Lionel Messi, left, celebrates after scoring against Ecuador during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium in Quito. Messi completed his hat-trick, the 44th of his dazzling career, with a sublime chip in the second half to seal the victory. | AP
Argentina's Angel Di María, right, fights for the ball against Ecuador's Pedro Velasco. Since 2014 World Cup final defeat against Germany, Argentina faced two more major disappointments in last couple of years, as they lost the finals of both the 2015 Copa America and the 2016 Copa America Centenario. | AP
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Ecuador's goalkeeper Maximo Banguera prepares to catch a ball during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Argentina. Messi, who will turn 31 during next year's World Cup, now has one, perhaps final, chance to emulate his idol Diego Maradona by lifting the World Cup. | AP
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Players of Argentina celebrate after Argentina's Lionel Messi scored his third goal against Ecuador during their 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Atahualpa Olympic Stadium in Quito. Relieved Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli , the third coach appointed during the qualifying campaign, could not avoid expressing his gratitude to Messi following Tuesday's win. | AP
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