Messi commands Argentina’s triumph against Ecuador at the start of the South American Qualifiers

Colombia beat Venezuela and Paraguay and Peru draw


A goal from a direct free kick by striker Leo Messi was enough for Argentina to guarantee victory against Ecuador (1-0) at the start of the South American Qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup in Mexico, the United States and Canada, while Colombia narrowly beat Venezuela (1-0) and Paraguay and Peru shared the points (0-0).

At the Monumental in Buenos Aires, the world champions had to work hard to unravel the solid defensive system proposed by the Spanish Félix Sánchez Bas, now the ‘Tri’ coach, and only managed to overcome it in the final stretch.

Earlier, Lautaro Martínez, reference above, crashed a ball into the right post of Hernán Galíndez’s goal in the clearest occasion for the albiceleste in the first half. After the break, Nicolás Tagliafico tried his luck with a shot that just grazed the crossbar.

In the 76th minute, after a foul on Lautaro near the area, Messi took advantage of the opportunity to take a fantastic direct free kick that went over the wall and surprised the Ecuadorian goalkeeper, impassive as the ball slipped in mid-height past the right post of his goal.

With this goal, the Inter Miami attacker overtook the Uruguayan Luis Suárez as the all-time top scorer in the South American Qualifiers, with 29 goals each. On the next day, Lionel Scaloni’s men will face Bolivia in La Paz.

For its part, Colombia began its path to the World Cup with a 1-0 victory against Venezuela in Barranquilla, where a goal from former Atlético de Madrid and Villarreal player Rafael Santos Borré gave a sweet debut in official matches to Argentine Nestor Lorenzo.

After a goalless first half, the current Werder Bremen striker needed just ten seconds to put the ‘coffee growers’ ahead in the second half; As soon as they took off the center, the Colombian team caught the ‘Vinotinto’ players off guard and Jhon Arias put in a great cross that Santos Borré finished off with a header.

Lastly, Paraguay and Peru sealed a goalless draw (0-0) at the start of the Qualifiers in Ciudad del Este, a duel in which the ‘Albirroja’ put up the chances despite playing with one less from minute 44 for the expulsion of former Rayo Vallecano soccer player Luis Advíncula.