Argentina put on a show for their fans in its final 2022 World Cup qualifying home match with a dominant 3-0 win over last-place Venezuela, inspired by a man-of-the-match performance from captain Lionel Messi, who may have also played the final home qualifier of his international career..
Messi got the last goal for the Albiceleste, who had already earned qualification for the World Cup a few months back. Nico Gonzalez netted the breakthrough and super sub Angel Di Maria scored the gem of the lot with a delightful chip that whipped the La Bombonera crowd into a frenzy.
Asked by a reporter after the match whether he would continue to play World Cup qualifiers in the next cycle ahead of the 2026 FIFA tournament, the 34-year-old Messi hesitated.
“I don’t know. The truth is that I don’t know. I’m thinking about what’s coming next, which is Ecuador, and the preparation games we have after which are in July, and I think September, October, and then the World Cup.
“Then I don’t know,” he continued. “After the World Cup I will have to rethink many things, whether we do well or not, hopefully in the best way. But surely after the World Cup many things change.”
Whether or not it was his final home qualifying match, it was easy to tell from the opening minute that Messi was fully engaged and inspired. He played a ‘false nine’ central attacking position and he took charge, probing the Venezuelan backline.
Argentina started the game slow until the hosts finally figured a way through. It was midfielder Rodrigo De Paul who pushed forward unmarked into space and delivered the cross that led to the opening goal by Gonzalez. The Fiorentina forward was crashing the box to meet the service in the 36th minute.
De Paul, who along with Messi and Di Maria was a standout for the winning team, delivered the pass for the second goal and Di Maria did the rest. He danced around the Venezuelan defenders and chipped the goalkeeper, who was well off his line. Moments later, Di Maria combined on a give-and-go with his PSG teammate Messi to get the Argentina captain his goal and the team’s third.
Argentina, which extended its unbeaten streak to 30 matches, has two qualifying matches remaining in Ecuador (Tuesday) and a makeup against Brazil (date to be determined). Venezuela are a lock to finish in last place in the standings, closing out their qualifying campaign on Tuesday against Colombia..
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