Argentina entered Tuesday's World Cup qualifiers facing some potentially dire straits. If the results all shook out in a worst-case scenario, the 2014 World Cup runners-up could have found themselves all the way down to eighth place in COMBEBOL qualifying.
Fortunately for La Albiceleste, that crisis seems to have been averted. That's thanks, in large part, to one Lionel Andrés Messi. Perhaps you've heard of him? He gave Argentina a huge boost with this sensational free-kick goal to open the scoring against Chile.
That's absolute perfection off his perfect left foot. He wasn't done, either. Not content with just an assist, Messi put this cross on a plate for Lucas Pratto to head home and double the host's lead.
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That 2-0 scoreline would carry through through the first half of the critical World Cup qualifying match. With Bolivia snaking points away from Paraguay, Argentina found themselves in a tight race with Chile and Colombia to slot into an automatic qualifying spot after 12 matches. Chile were knotted up with Uruguay, 1-1, at the break. Should those results hold, Argentina would move up to fourth and Chile would remain fifth.
There's still plenty of time left for those matches to shake out differently, of course. But either way, Argentina has to feel pretty good that at least Messi looks back to his old self.