Lionel Messi’s Argentina Begin 2026 FIFA World Cup Journey With Win Over Ecuador

Lionel Messi Celebrating
Lionel Messi Celebrating

Less than nine months ago, Lionel Messi’s Argentina conquered the world, lifting the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Now, they are preparing to make their way into the next edition of the global spectacle, kick-starting their qualification journey to the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

They faced Ecuador in their first qualifier at the Estadio Mas Monumental on Thursday night (September 7) and only narrowly escaped with a victory. And once again, it came through Inter Miami star Messi’s magical left boot.

Lionel Messi magic inspires Argentina to opening-day win

Playing at home, Argentina started the game with confidence, creating their first clear-cut chance of the night in the 12th minute. Messi beautifully floated the ball into the penalty area for Lautaro Martinez. The Inter Milan attacker stretched every fiber of his being to meet the delivery but was ultimately unable to do so, leading to a simple pick-up for Hernan Galindez.

In the first-half injury time, Martinez came agonizingly close to giving La Albiceleste the lead. Rodrigo De Paul placed the ball into the striker’s path, and he cleverly attempted to poke it in. The ball took a deflection off a defender and slammed against the post.

Cristian Romero and Nicolas Tagliafico came close to breaking the deadlock in the second half, but it did not arrive until Messi decided to take matters into his own hands. Argentina won a free-kick just outside the ‘D’ in the 76th minute, which naturally fell to Messi. The skipper unhesitantly hit the ball with his venomous left boot, taking it above the wall and into the back of the net. The keeper did not even bother attempting to make a save.

Messi lauds Ecuador’s physicality, wants to take it one game at a time

Speaking to the press after the game, Messi hailed Ecuador’s physicality and revealed that his team were taking it one game at a time. He said (via SportStar):

We know that they are difficult matches in the qualifiers. Ecuador has very good players, they know what they are doing and they are very good physically. It was a very tough match, very physical. I was a little tired so I went out (subbed in 89th minute) but I felt good.

Not long ago we were world champions but it seems like a lot happened. We have to keep going, competing and qualifying for the next world championship, going game after game.

With a win over Ecuador in the bag, Argentina will now travel to Bolivia for their next qualifier on Tuesday (September 12). Ecuador, meanwhile, will play Uruguay on the same day.

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