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Football 'owes the World Cup' to Argentina's Lionel Messi

October 11, 2017 4:28 AM
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Football 'owes the World Cup' to Argentina's Lionel Messi

Jorge Sampaoli said that football "owes the world" to Lionel Messi after Argentina's talisman scored three spectacular goals to lead his country past Ecuador 3-1 to earn a spot in the 2018 World Cup.

Argentina went into the evening needing three points for all intents and purposes to secure a spot at next summer's tournament in Russia, and Messi helped them overcome an early deficit to rally for victory, scoring twice before half-time and adding his third after the break to seal the win.

The hat trick took Messi to 21 career CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying goals, breaking Hernan Crespo's record of 19, a feat his Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez also did on Tuesday when he struck twice in a win for Uruguay against Bolivia.

After the match, Sampaoli told a new conference: "I told the group that Messi does not owe Argentina a World Cup, but rather football owes the world to him.

Argentina started the day in sixth place in CONMEBOL's qualifying table and knew that with a win they could finish no worse than fifth place, good for a spot in the intercontinental playoff with New Zealand for a place in the World Cup.

Before the game, fans around the world were left to wonder what a World Cup without one of the game's greatest players of all time would look like.

But the heroics from Messi, combined with the rest of the results in the region on Tuesday, means Argentina have qualified in third place, and Sampaoli hailed his team's star after the match.

He said: "Football, the World Cup, could not be left without Messi. We had to play with that in mind. As a consequence of that pressure, we are stronger now, this qualification will make us stronger to face the future.

"We had the possibility to help him to be in another World Cup. He is the best player in the history of soccer and I'm very excited to be in a group near him."

After the match Messi, who along with the rest of Argentina's players had not spoken to the media since November 2016, said: "Fortunately everything went well and we are into the World Cup. We are calm now after achieving the main goal, that is the most important thing. All this time that we were away from the press and the fans helped us to be closer.

"It would have been crazy a World Cup without Argentina, this group didn't deserve it. The team will change, will grow a lot and will come out stronger.

"It was a relief because we were in a tough spot. We got ourselves into this mess. It was not easy to play here, a lot of things happen from my mind when the 0-1 came, but the group overcame the situation very well and was quick to take the lead.

"There was some fear of missing the World Cup. We let pass a lot of opportunities and we had to decide our future in this game. We had to qualify, now it's time to enjoy"

Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.

Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli said his side cannot totally rely on Lionel Messi as his team swept aside Ecuador 3-1 to qualify for the World Cup.

Messi scored a hat-trick as the club recovered from an early Ecuador strike to claim all three points and a place in Russia.

Speaking after the result, Sampaoli said his squad ``should help (Messi) to be in the World Cup'' and that Argentina ``took a big step ahead''.

He said: ``They won the game with authority. (The opposition) scored a goal and we did not despair.

``Today luckily the nationality of the best player in the world is Argentinian.

``We must be sure everything does not depend on Leo (Messi) (but) today he brought his great ability.

``I told the group: Messi did not owe the World Cup to Argentina, but football owed the World Cup to Messi.

The goal in the opening minute for Ecuador - when Romario Ibarra struck - did not faze the Argentian side, Sampaoli said.

``I think the game became complicated in terms of planning. It became more difficult because Ecuador scored in the opening minute.

Source: espnfc.com

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