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Messi leads Argentina to win over Ecuador in World Cup qualifier


Lionel Messi (C) of Argentina celebrates after scoring a goal during a match between Argentina and Ecuador as part of FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 7, 2023. /CFP

Lionel Messi (C) of Argentina celebrates after scoring a goal during a match between Argentina and Ecuador as part of FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 7, 2023. /CFP

Lionel Messi (C) of Argentina celebrates after scoring a goal during a match between Argentina and Ecuador as part of FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, September 7, 2023. /CFP

Lionel Messi scored from a set piece as reigning champions Argentina began their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign with a 1-0 home victory over Ecuador on Thursday.

The 36-year-old forward put the hosts ahead in the 78th minute when he curled a free-kick over the defensive wall and beyond a flat-footed goalkeeper Hernan Galindez.

It was no less than the Albiceleste deserved, as they dominated possession and completed more than twice as many passes as their rivals.

“We played against a great team with good players who are physically strong,” Messi told reporters after the game.

“Everyone always wants to beat Argentina and even more so now that we are the world champions. We can’t relax; we have to improve on what we’ve been doing.”

The match was Argentina’s first competitive outing since they beat France on penalties in the World Cup final at Lusail Stadium in Qatar last December.

Messi, who has now scored 104 goals in 176 international appearances for Argentina, insisted that he and his Albiceleste teammates remained motivated for more success.

“The objective is to qualify for the World Cup again. We really enjoyed what we did but we have to look ahead,” the Inter Miami star added.

Argentina’s next qualifier will be against Bolivia at more than 3,600 meters above sea level in La Paz on September 12. Ecuador will host Uruguay in Quito the same day.

In other South American zone qualifiers on Thursday, Colombia won 1-0 at home to Venezuela, and Paraguay were held to a goalless home draw by Peru.

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency



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