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    Messi Magic Inspires Argentina Into World Cup, Chile Out


    Lionel Messi bagged a hat-trick in the early hours of Wednesday as Argentina qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup with a 3-1 victory over Ecuador in Quito.

    Argentina went into the final match of the South American qualifying campaign in sixth place and facing elimination for the first time in 47 years but captain Messi stepped up to save the day.

    Ecuador went ahead through Romario Ibarra before Messi stunned the Quito crowd with a fine hat-trick to send his country through.

    Ibarra opened scoring after just 38 seconds with a smart finish into the bottom corner past Sergio Romero.

    Messi then took over the game, equalising in the 12th minute when he struck Angel Di Maria’s pass into the net from close range.

    The Barcelona superstar then rifled an unstoppable strike into the roof of the net in the 20th minute before wrapping up a magnificent night by dribbling past three defenders and chipping the ball over the keeper from the edge of the box.

    In other matches on the night, Chile lost 3-0 to Brazil and got eliminated, while Peru got into the play-offs with a draw with Colombia, meaning Argentina ended the campaign in third place having climbed three spots on the final day.

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