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 By Chris Wright

Argentina saviour Lionel Messi leads celebrations after World Cup relief

Just when they needed him most, Lionel Messi produced a monumental performance on Tuesday evening to drag Argentina from the brink and into the 2018 World Cup.

After beginning the day in sixth place in the South American qualifying table, Messi scored a superb hat trick in a 3-1 win over Ecuador in Argentina's final fixture that saw the Albiceleste seal automatic qualification by finishing third.

No wonder they celebrated loud and long after the final whistle, with their main man leading the chants in the dressing room.

Mas Unidos que nunca !!!!!

A post shared by Javier Mascherano (@mascherano14) on

"Luckily the nationality of the best player in the world is Argentinian," said coach Jorge Sampaoli, counting his lucky stars after the match.

"I told the group: Messi did not owe the World Cup to Argentina, but football owed the World Cup to Messi. We should help him be in the World Cup."

It is a team game after all -- it's just really helpful when your team also happens to include one of the best footballers in the history of the sport.

Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.

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