Argentina’s route to defending their championship at the 2022 World Cup began on Thursday. The defending World Cup champions needed a hero in their first World Cup qualifying match of this cycle, which they played against Ecuador at home.
There’s no point in trying to anticipate who that hero might be. It’s the type of person you’d expect.
Argentina defeated Ecuador, 1-0, in their opening CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying match on Thursday thanks to a sensational late free kιck from Lionel Messi. The world champions were not at their best tonight, and Ecuador did a fantastic job of keeping them in check for long portions of the game. However, when one team has Messi playing like this, sometimes that’s all it takes.
And it wasn’t just the Argentine team’s skipper who shone. Overall, the offense was ineffective, while Argentina’s midfield played up to expectations. After a successful showing in the World Cup last winter, the Brazilian three of Rodrigo de Paul, Enzo Fernandez, and Alexis Mac Allister have continued their winning ways.
Argentina now has a record of. Their commander and hero got them off to a good start, but they’ll need more to make it to 2026.
7/10 From Emi Martinez:
Made a few easy saves and spread the ball around reasonably well. Not a single complaint.
7/10, Nicolas Tagliafico:
Moved the ball forward effectively, generated a couple scoring opportunities, and had one good look at goal, but his shot Һit the crossbar and went wide.
7/10 Nicolas Otamendi:
Superb with the ball, completing over 90% of his passes, and cool under pressure as he repelled Ecuador’s few attempts on goal.
9/10, Cristian Romero:
Lost only one pass all game and, like Otamendi, spent a lot of time picking up loose pieces. The superior central defender on this particular evening.
I give Nahuel Molina a 6/10.
Like Tagliafico, he was effective going forward, but not quite as much so as his opposite number.
Alexis Mac Allister, a midfielder, (8/10):
What a brilliant midfielder who can do anything Argentina asks of him when needed. He had an accurate pass and performed a lot of grunt work defensively. One of those exceptional displays that, at first look, doesn’t seem exceptional because he got so many details correct.
7/10, Enzo Fernandez:
The meeting between Fernandez and Moises Caicedo was advertised as a bаttle of young Chelsea talent. Even though nothing in sports is ever cut and dried, Fernandez looked like the midfielder Chelsea spent a fortune on when he played.
7/10 Rodrigo De Paul:
He served as Messi’s bodyguard in Qatar and is still quite good at it. Did everything he could on defense to keep Messi on the field.
Nicolas Gonzalez under аttаck (5/10):
The Fiorentina winger remained rather quiet until he was replaced by Angel Di Maria, who could end up taking his place in the starting lineup.
4/10 Lautaro Martinez:
He squandered a number of opportunities that, were he playing for Inter, you might have considered safe bets. Not scoring for his country in almost a year is a cause for concern.
Messi, Lionel (8/10):
He still has the scoring touch after all these years. When Argentina’s оffensive stalled, Messi stepped up and won the game with a free kιck.