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Messi Fires Argentina To 2018 World Cup

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Barcelona striker Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Argentina beat Ecuador 3-1 to qualify for the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.

Argentina needed a win on the night to secure a place in Russia next year, and thanks to the Barcelona man, their prayers were answered.

The 30-year-old made history doing that. He becomes the first player to reach 20 World Cup qualifying goals in South America.

Romario Ibarra put Ecuador in front in the first minute, to compound the pressure on the visitors.

Messi cancelled out the strike in the 12th minute with a fine finish after combining well with Angel Di Maria to pull the visitors level on the night.

Seven minutes later, the Argentine was on hand again, this time with a powerful left-footed drive to the top left corner of the post to give his side the lead.

The second goal was his 20th all-time in World Cup qualifying for Argentina, leaving him as the first man in the region to reach that mark.

Messi rounded off his night with a third goal, similar to his second, running past the Ecuador defence to place the ball past the keeper and send Argentina fans into ecstatic celebration.

Brazil ensured South America back to back champions, Chile will not be at the World Cup next year, with a 3-0 win.