Messi magic puts Argentina back on World Cup track

Updated: 00:00 GMT, Jan 1, 1970 | Published: 05:43 GMT, Nov 16, 2016 |

A Lionel Messi masterclass, netting a brilliant free kick before laying on two more goals, put Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a resounding 3-0 win over Colombia on Tuesday (November 15).

But Messi opened a post-game news conference, with the entire team standing behind him, declaring a press boycott. The boycott is a response after teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi was accused in the media of using marijuana at Argentina’s training camp. Lavezzi has denied the claim.

“As you know, because everything is known here – we have made the decision to not speak any more to the media obviously you know why. We received a lot of accusations, a lack of respect and we never said anything but I believe that this takes over everything, the accusation against Pocho [referring to teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi] is very serious because if it is said and we do not say anything, the people believe it is so because a lot of the people believe everything that is said and we prefer to cut it off. We are very sorry that it has to be this way but there is no other option,” he said.

But the controversy did not take away from Argentina’s victory. The win lifted Messi’s team, recovering from two successive defeats, into fifth place in the South American group with 19 points, one behind Ecuador and Chile, who beat Uruguay 3-1 with an Alexis Sanchez brace.

The top four go through to the 2018 finals in Russia with the fifth, at present Argentina, qualifying for an intercontinental playoff for another berth.

“Really, one doesn’t have to say very much to encourage them on because they know that they are wearing a very heavy jersey and as they say themselves they leave life in every game and it was what they did and what they are going to do in each game that touches them all, beyond the result,” said coach Edgardo Bauza.

Argentina took a ninth-minute lead when Messi curled his free kick over the wall and into the top left corner of David Ospina’s net off the underside of the bar for his 57th Argentina goal.

Falcao came close for Colombia at the other end when he headed James Rodriguez’s free kick just over Sergio Romero’s bar after 18 minutes. Five minutes later Messi’s superb ball over the defence was met on the edge of the six-yard box with a firm header into the bottom far corner by Lucas Pratto, justifying his inclusion in place of the benched Gonzalo Higuain.

Colombia pushed Argentina back in the second half though the home side threatened again when Messi fed Angel Di Maria but his shot from a tight angle hit the post. Di Maria did, however, break a goal drought for his country stretching back eight matches, in the 83rd minute.

Messi cheekily stole the ball from a defender, raced into the box and laid the ball square where Di Maria blasted his 18th Argentina goal into the roof of the net. Rodriguez hit the post with a free kick in stoppage time with Colombia’s last chance of the match.