In a classic tale of soccer wizardry, Argentina triumphed in their opening 2026 World Cup qualifying match, courtesy of the one and only Lionel Messi. The game was all square at nil-nil until the 78th minute, when Messi conjured up a magical free kick that left Ecuador’s goalkeeper, Hernán Galíndez, frozen in his tracks like a startled penguin.
Lionel Messi’s Spectacular Free Kick Seals Victory for Argentina
That immaculate free kick turned out to be the game-winner in Argentina’s 1-0 victory. To top it off, Messi received a roaring standing ovation from the ecstatic crowd when he made way for a substitute in the 89th minute.
Messi, always the humble magician, shared his thoughts after the match: “These qualifiers are like wrestling with a grizzly bear. Ecuador has some serious talent, they’re like the Avengers of soccer. It was one heck of a tough match, physically exhausting. I was a bit knackered, which is why I got subbed, but hey, I felt good.”
He continued, “Not too long ago, we were the kings of the soccer universe, but it feels like ages. We’ve got to keep grinding, aiming for that next World Cup, one game at a time. Our friendlies and this match showed we’re not here for siestas. Everybody wants to outshine Argentina, and now that we’re champions, it’s like they’ve all been eating spinach.”
Messi’s dazzling goal marked his 29th in World Cup qualifiers, tying him with his former Barcelona buddy, Luis Suarez. In total, Messi boasts a jaw-dropping 104 goals in 176 appearances for the national team.
While Argentina bossed possession, an organized Ecuador squad, harboring World Cup dreams of their own, put up a valiant defense for most of the match. But when Messi’s magic is in the air, no fortress can hold.
With the World Cup expanding its guest list, the top six South American teams secure automatic invites to the 2026 party. The seventh-place team will have to crash a mini intercontinental playoff to score an invite.
In other soccer news, Colombia kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win against Venezuela, while Paraguay played a goalless draw at home to a 10-man Peru. The soccer spectacle continues on Friday, with Brazil hosting Bolivia and Uruguay rolling out the red carpet for Chile.
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