The qualification journey to Russia 2018 terminated on Tuesday in CONCACAF, UEFA, and CONMEBOL with Portugal beating Switzerland and Lionel Messi producing a magical three goals in Quito to take Argentina through.
In an evening of drama, Messi produced the performance of the qualifiers as he scored three goals despite Ecuador taking the lead inside the first minute of the match. Having not won in Ecuador in the last 16 years and on a bumpy pitch, the task was made harder when Romario Andrés Ibarra Mina slid the ball past Sergio Romero.
Argentina was back on level terms 10 minutes later when Messi poked home from an Angel Maria cut back. He added the second with a shot in the 20th minute from inside the 16-yard box. Messi then made the game safe with a glorious chip at 62 minutes. Argentina ended in third place as Chile lost 3-0 to Brazil while Colombia and Peru settled for fourth and fifth places with a 1-1 draw in Lima.
Peru has a playoff for Russia against New Zealand next month as all qualifiers for the World Cup would be concluded.
In European qualifiers, Portugal beat Switzerland courtesy of a 2-0 win at the Stadium of Light in Lisbon. It was a tense match that did not produce many goal scoring chances.
It took until the 41st minute for the breakthrough as Johann Djourou, under pressure from Joao Mario, put into his own net. Portugal’s second was well constructed with many passes near the Swiss box before Bernando Silva passed to Andre Silva, who maintained his composure to score the second. The Swiss ended on 27 points, same as Portugal but with an inferior goals difference.
In North America, a new country in Panama would be making a first trip to the FIFA World Cup. Roman Torres scored for Panama in the 88th minute to complete their comeback over Costa Rica to secure a 2-1 win and an unlikely journey to Russia.
But the USA will be missing a first World Cup since 1986 because they failed to get the point needed to qualify and fell 2-1 away to Trinidad and Tobago. Honduras earned an intercontinental play-off against Australia next month by beating Mexico 3-2.
Already qualified for Russia 2018