Ecuador of recent years aren’t the toughest foe in South America, but Lionel Messi picking up the pace on the road to the 2014 World Cup with such an impressive performance, leading Argentina to a 4-0 win, does call for some sort of celebration.
Finally, an great game for Messi in front of the Argentinian crowd, who were awfully disappointed by him and the national team in the Copa America, and have so far yet to see something special in the World Cup qualifiers – losing at Venezuela, a home draw with Bolivia, winning in Colombia. Now, finally, something to build upon, with Messi scoring one and adding another assist.
It was obvious this was more than just a win for Argentina, facing harsh criticism for their results and their style since the 2010 World Cup. Messi, for once, looked relieved and relishing the opportunity to play for Albiceleste, something that usually seems to add a few pounds to his feet and take the smile off his face.
We’ve always searched for the connection with the fans. It was a hard game, but we came through it well. Now we have to use every game to improve as a team. It was a very nice birthday present. We’re also very happy because the people trust in us again.
Everything opened up for Messi after Sergio Aguero scored the opening goal, his 15th for the national team, 20 minutes from the opening whistle. Up until that moment Messi was either double teamed or triple teamed by the Ecuadorian defense, entering the match in Buenos Aires undefeated. That Aguero goal forced them to start opening up, and gave Messi the opportunity to begin his counter attacking masterclass.
He set up the goal for Gonzalo Higuain in the 29th minute (13th, first since October 2011) and scored himself two minutes later for his 23 goal in national team uniform. He continued to haunt Ecaudor’s players by creating chances for others and himself, narrowly missing a second and third goal. Eventually, it was Angel Di Maria who found the net to conclude the four goal romp.
Next for Argentina is the usual South American Super-match with Brazil, which has undoubtedly lost part of its appeal in recent years, mostly due to the Brazilian side being miles away from anything resembling attractive, flair-style football.
For Messi, it was a rare opportunity that he actually pounced on to extend his success from Barcelona with the national team, something that should happen more often with the amount of talent surrounding him, despite playing in a slightly different role when playing for Argentina. Maybe now, with this win, the road to Brazil can continue a bit more smoothly, for both Messi and Argentina, currently second in the South American group.