Lionel Messi once again emerged as the saviour having scored the winning goal for Argentina in the 78th minute against Ecuador in a 2026 World Cup qualifying fixture at the Estadio Mas Monumental in Buenos Aires. With this, Messi equalled Uruguay striker Luis Suarez’s record of most number of goals in South America’s World Cup qualifiers, as per stats obtained from Transfermarkt. The joint all-time top scorers in the South American qualifying tournament —Messi and Suarez— have 29 goals each under their belt. With Suarez not being a part of Uruguay squad for this round of qualifiers, Messi has a chance of surpassing his former Barcelona teammate.
“It’s a pleasure for me that we are both there. Given what the qualifiers mean for us in South American football, it’s a very nice thing for both of us,” Messi was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters.
Messi scored an outrageous free-kick against Ecuador on his 176th international cap for Argentina. Messi, who now has 104 international goals to his name, struck the ball over the wall right into the top-left corner of the net to earn a much-needed victory for La Albiceleste. But the job is not done yet for the reigning World Cup winners. In his second World Cup qualifying encounter, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will be up against Bolivia next week.
“We played against a great team, with good players and physically strong. Everyone always wants to beat Argentina and even more so now that we are the world champions. We can’t relax, we have to improve on what we’ve been doing. The objective is to qualify for the World Cup again. We really enjoyed what we did but we have to look ahead,” Messi told the reporters.
Messi has been in scintillating form since joining the Major League Soccer (MLS) side Inter Miami earlier this summer. He won the Golden Boot award having scored 10 goals in seven Leagues Cup games for Inter Miami. His spectacular show guided the Herons to the Leagues Cup title as well. Inter Miami have been unbeaten since the Argentine great made his debut for them against Cruz Azul in July. The 36-year-old has bagged 12 goals across all competitions for both his club and country since arriving in the United States.
In other World Cup qualifying fixtures, Paraguay and 10-man Peru played out a goalless draw. Colombia, on the other hand, earned a crucial 1-0 win against Venezuela. Forward Rafael Santos Borre netted the solitary goal of the game in the 46th minute to clinch a win for Colombia.