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Lionel Messi scores sublime free kick to lead Argentina to 1-0 win over Ecuador in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier

As is custom anytime the World Cup winner steps over a dead ball situation, the Buenos Aires crowd held its breath before the Inter Miami man curled it over the wall and into the near corner of the net. 

Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez could do little but stop and stare as Ecuador’s hopes of a point in the CONMEBOL 2026 World Cup qualifier opener.

The diminutive No. 10 was substituted in the 89 minute to a standing applause and salute of its Argentina’s favorite son.

In other qualifiers, Paraguay drew 0-0 with Peru while Colombia claimed a 1-0 home win over Venezuela.

World champions Argentina were dominant in possession but frustrated in attack as they struggled to make the breakthrough. 

The first round of CONMEBOL qualifiers continues on Friday when Uruguay host Chile before Brazil take on Bolivia. 

With the goal, Messi equaled close friend and former Barcelona teammate, Luis Suarez, atop the all-time CONMEBOL WCQ goal scoring charts, with 29. 

Argentina’s next World Cup qualifier comes on September 12 vs. Bolivia in La Paz.

In Messi’s absence, Inter Miami will play at home to Sporting Kansas City on September 9.