Lionel Messi scored a brilliant hat-trick as Argentina sealed their place at the 2018 World Cup with a 3-1 victory over Ecuador on Tuesday.
Barcelona superstar Messi single-handedly rescued Argentina's World Cup hopes as the South American giants came from behind to win in Quito.
Romario Ibarra had given Ecuador a shock lead after only 38 seconds but Messi struck twice inside the opening 20 minutes to give Argentina the lead before adding a third in the second half.
It was a vintage display from Messi, delivering for Argentina when it mattered most to erase fears that the two-time champions might not qualify for next year's finals in Russia.
Argentina had got off to a disastrous start, conceding a goal in the opening minute as Ecuador took full advantage of hesitancy in the visiting side's defensive ranks.
Argentina stalwart Javier Mascherano failed to deal with a speculative long ball forward from Dario Aimar, directing a headed clearance into the path of Romario Ibarra.
Ibarra calmly headed to team-mate Roberto Ordones who then steered a header back to Ibarra for the Universidad Catolica midfielder.
It was the worst possible start for a shell-shocked Argentina, who had kicked off chasing their first victory in the Ecuadoran capital since 2001.
For a while Argentina struggled to get to grips with a vibrant Ecuador, who looked to push forward at every opportunity.
But it was...