Argentina was in trouble until the final round of South American qualifying for the World Cup, and needed Lionel Messi to seal his country’s place at soccer’s global showcase.
Now comes the really difficult part.
Given Argentina’s World Cup tradition, the 3-1 win earned against Ecuador with Messi’s hat trick was little short of mandatory. But coach Jorge Sampaoli still has a lot to fix in a squad that almost made Argentina miss a World Cup for the first time in 48 years.
Here is a look at the issues facing the team:
DEPENDENCE ON MESSI
At a crucial moment, Argentina needed Messi to step in and avoid what could have been a humiliating exit. And he certainly delivered, with his three goals against Ecuador worth a place at next year’s finals.
Russia might be Messi’s last World Cup, and it will definitely be his final…