In a thrilling showdown during the 2026 World Cup qualifying match, Lionel Messi once again proved that he’s a football genius regardless of the team he’s playing for. In his first appearance with Argentina since the 2022 World Cup final, Messi dazzled fans worldwide by scoring a breathtaking free-kick in the 78th minute, securing a 1-0 win against Ecuador.
A Signature Messi Moment
The defining moment of the match came when Messi stepped up to take a free-kick. With a characteristic precision only he possesses, Messi’s left boot found the left side of the net, leaving Ecuadorian goalkeeper Hernan Galindez rooted to the spot and dropping to one knee in disbelief. Messi’s iconic celebration followed – arms outstretched, sprinting towards his jubilant Argentina teammates, who swarmed him while fans inside Estadio Más Monumental in Buenos Aires erupted in celebration despite the chilly weather.
This goal was no fluke. Messi has showcased this incredible skill multiple times during his brief stint with MLS team Inter Miami and countless other occasions with Argentina throughout his famous career. The seven-time “Ballon d’Or” winner left the pitch just ten minutes after his sensational goal, basking in the adoration of the crowd as they cheered his exit after yet another magical performance.
Argentina’s Promising Start in 2026 World Cup Qualifying
With this crucial victory, Argentina started their 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign on a strong note, earning three valuable points in Conmebol qualifying. On the other hand, Ecuador ended the match with a discouraging minus three points. This World Cup edition is expanded, with six South American teams directly qualifying and a seventh team competing in the FIFA playoff tournament.
The 2026 World Cup is set to be a historic event, co-hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada, featuring a 48-team format. Argentina’s strong start positions them as favorites to secure their place in this prestigious tournament once again.
Messi’s Future with Argentina Uncertain
As Messi continues to perform at the highest level, questions arise about his future with the Argentine national team. At 36, speculation is rife regarding whether he will participate in the 2024 Copa America and the 2026 World Cup or opt to retire from international competition before then. Messi himself remains enigmatic about the timing of his retirement, stating, “It’ll happen when it happens,” during a recent interview.
Argentina’s coach, Lionel Scaloni, remains hopeful, keeping the door open for the possibility of Messi’s participation in the next World Cup, saying, “I think Messi can get to the next World Cup. It will depend a lot on what he wants, on whether he feels good. The door will always be open.”
Messi’s World Cup Glory
Messi’s outstanding performance in this match adds to his already illustrious World Cup legacy. In the 2022 World Cup final, he was nothing short of spectacular, scoring two goals, including a crucial penalty kick, to lead Argentina to a thrilling 3-3 (4-2 penalty kicks) victory over France. This victory secured Messi the Golden Ball, awarded to the tournament’s best player, cementing his status as one of the greatest footballers of all time.
From PSG to Inter Miami: Messi’s Journey
Following the 2022 World Cup triumph, Messi continued to make waves in the football world. He helped Paris Saint-Germain secure back-to-back French Ligue 1 titles, although the club was eliminated from the Champions League Round of 16 in March. In June, Messi bid farewell to PSG, and in late July, he joined Inter Miami, a Major League Soccer (MLS) team owned by former English football icon David Beckham.
Reflecting on his move to Inter Miami during a press conference in August, Messi expressed his excitement about the decision: “I chose to come here. I wanted to come here. And it’s a decision we made with time. It wasn’t something we decided one day to the next. We are where we want to be.”
Messi’s Stellar Start with Inter Miami
Messi’s arrival at Inter Miami instantly catapulted the club to the limelight. He wasted no time proving his worth on the pitch, scoring an astonishing 11 goals in his first 11 games with the team. Out of those 11 games, he found the net in eight, showcasing his exceptional skill and goal-scoring prowess. Inter Miami boasts an impressive 10-1-0 (win-draw-loss) record with Messi in their ranks since his late-July arrival.
Messi’s impact wasn’t limited to individual accomplishments. He played a pivotal role in helping Inter Miami secure the Leagues Cup title in August, and the club is set to compete against the Houston Dynamo in the U.S. Open Cup final on September 27. However, in the fiercely competitive MLS playoff race, Inter Miami currently trails eighth-place D.C. United by eight points in the Eastern Conference.
A Legend Unfazed by Age
Lionel Messi might be 36 years old, but he continues to defy the odds and astound football fans with his incredible skills and goal-scoring ability. Regardless of the jersey he wears, the teammates he plays alongside, or the opponents he faces, Messi consistently finds a way to shine. His goal-scoring streak in this match marked his eighth consecutive international match with a goal, a testament to his enduring brilliance.
In conclusion, Lionel Messi’s iconic free-kick goal in the 2026 World Cup qualifying match against Ecuador once again underlines his status as a football legend. As he navigates his international career and showcases his talents with Inter Miami, football enthusiasts worldwide eagerly await more moments of magic from this living football legend.