• July 23, 2024

GOLAZO! Lionel Messi powers Argentina in World Cup qualifying

From Inter Miami CF to the Argentina national team, Lionel Messi kept the free-kick golazos coming Thursday in the opening night of FIFA 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

 

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Just like his Leagues Cup 2023 heroics that guided the Herons to their first-ever trophy, Messi came to the rescue and guided the defending World Cup champions to a dramatic 1-0 home win over Ecuador with a stunning dead-ball strike.

With the game scoreless in the 78th minute, the superstar No. 10 curled a free kick into the top corner, leaving goalkeeper Hernán Galíndez completely flat-footed.

It was just the latest feather in the cap of Messi, who led Argentina – with the help of Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada – to World Cup glory at Qatar 2022 and is enjoying a dream start to life with Miami, posting 11g/5a (counting only primary assists) in 11 games across all competitions since his mid-July arrival.

 

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Thursday night’s exploits came one day after the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was included in the 30-player shortlist for this year’s award.

San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Carlos Gruezo played the full 90 minutes for Ecuador at the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires, while Almada and first-time call-up Alan Velasco (FC Dallas) weren’t included in head coach Lionel Scaloni’s matchday squad.

Messi and Argentina continue their qualifying campaign on Tuesday evening at Bolivia. Meanwhile, Miami will look to continue their late-season Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs push without their superstar No. 10 Saturday night when hosting Sporting Kansas City (7:30 pm ET | MLS Season Pass).

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