Late in the second half, Argentina scored twice in three minutes, including a bizarrely mis-hit effort from Lionel Messi.
Argentina put on a show for their fans with a 3-0 win against last-place Venezuela in their final 2022 World Cup qualifying home encounter, led by a man-of-the-match performance from captain Lionel Messi, who may have also played his final home qualifier of his international career. The Albiceleste’s final goal came from Messi, who had already qualified for the World Cup a few months before. Nico Gonzalez scored the game’s first goal, and super sub Angel Di Maria added the finishing touch with a lovely chip that sent the La Bombonera faithful into a frenzy.
After the match, when asked if he will continue to play World Cup qualifiers in the next cycle ahead of the FIFA event in 2026, Messi, 34, paused. “I’m not sure.” The truth is that I have no idea. I’m thinking about the next match, which is against Ecuador, and the preparation games that follow, which are in July, September, and October, and then the World Cup.
“Then I’m not sure,” he added. “I’ll have to rethink a lot of things after the World Cup, whether we do well or not, hopefully in the best way possible. However, many things will undoubtedly alter following the World Cup.”
Whether or not this was Messi’s final home qualifying match, it was clear from the start that he was fully committed and inspired. He was a ‘false nine’ center attacking midfielder who took leadership and probed the Venezuelan defense. Argentina got off to a rocky start, but the hosts eventually found a way through. Rodrigo De Paul, a midfielder, pushed forward into space unmarked and supplied the pass that led to Gonzalez’s first goal. In the 36th minute, the Fiorentina forward was crashing the box to meet the service.
De Paul, who was a highlight for the winning team alongside Messi and Di Maria, supplied the assist for the second goal, and Di Maria completed the rest. He weaved his way past the Venezuelan defenders and chipped the goalkeeper, who was well off his line. Di Maria then linked with his PSG teammate Messi on a give-and-go to give the Argentina captain his goal and the team’s third.
Argentina has two qualifying matches left in Ecuador (Tuesday) and a makeup match against Brazil after extending its unbeaten streak to 30 games (date to be determined). Venezuela will almost certainly finish last in the standings after their final qualification match against Colombia on Tuesday.
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