Argentina vs Ecuador score, result, highlights as Lionel Messi delivers again to begin World Cup qualifying

Lionel Messi may be 36 years old, but at this stage of his career, the Inter Miami hero feels more inevitable than ever.

No matter what shirt he wears, no matter who lines up alongside or opposite him, no matter who stands between the posts, Messi finds a way to deposit the ball in the back of the net.

A 78th-minute free-kick goal from the Argentinian legend sent the defending FIFA World Cup champions through to victory, opening 2026 qualifying with a 1-0 win over Ecuador in Buenos Aires. The goal put Messi on the scoresheet for an eighth straight international match, and gave Argentina all three points to begin the expanded World Cup cycle.

Ecuador put in a true shift defensively, hemming in the Argentina attack for long stretches of the match, but as Messi stepped up to the ball with 12 minutes remaining, it seemed like a matter of time before the hosts went ahead, and that’s exactly what happened.

The Sporting News was following the Argentina vs Ecuador match live, providing score updates, commentary and highlights below.

MORE: How many goals has Lionel Messi scored for Inter Miami this season?

Argentina vs Ecuador final score

  Score Goal scorers
Argentina 1 Messi (78′)
Ecuador 0

Starting lineups:

Argentina (4-3-3, right to left): 23. E. Martinez (GK) — 21. Molina, 13. Romero, 19. Otamendi, 3. Tagliafico — 7. De Paul, 8. E. Fernandez, 20. Mac Allister (Paredes, 77′) — 10. Messi (Palacios, 88′), 22. La. Martinez (J. Alvarez, 77′), 15. N. Gonzalez (Di Maria, 63′).

Ecuador (3-5-2, right to left): 1. Galindez (GK) — 4. Arboleda, 2. F. Torres (Mena, 81′), 6. Pacho — 3. Hurtado (Preciado, 81′), 5. Cifuentes, 8. Gruezo, 23. Caicedo, 7. Estupinan — 10. Plata (K. Rodriguez, 68′), 13. Valencia.

Argentina vs Ecuador live updates, highlights, commentary

FULLTIME: Argentina 1-0 Ecuador

Lionel Messi has given Argentina all three points! It was a spirited effort by Ecuador from a defensive perspective, but there is just no stopping Messi at the moment.

The 36-year-old scores in his eighth straight international match, and it sends Argentina on their way with victory to begin 2026 World Cup qualifying. It wasn’t the best performance by the defending World Cup champions, but it does the job.

Argentina vs Ecuador: Second Half

90+3 min: Chance, Argentina! Hernan Galindez makes an exceptional reflex save to deny Rodrigo de Paul! Argentina thread the ball into the penalty area brilliantly, and Angel Di Maria feeds de Paul, whose tight angle shot catches the hand of Galindez. Great buildup, and even better save!

88th min: Here’s something you don’t see everyday — Lionel Messi is subbed off as he hands the captain’s armband to Angel Di Maria. Exequiel Palacios enters in his place as Estadio Monumental gives their hero an absolutely thunderous applause.

Four minutes of stoppage time are shown.

85th min: Chance, Argentina! Angel Di Maria skids one just inches wide right! He receives the ball vertically at the end of a brilliant Leandro Paredes run, but takes a touch before scuffing his shot, when the better option would have been to hit it first-time. It’s an agonizing slow-roller, but Hernan Galindez is wrong-footed and can’t reach it, reduced to helplessly watching as the shot drags barely wide of the far post.

81st min: Now behind a goal, Ecuador make a pair of substitutions, bringing on Angelo Preciado and Angel Mena for Jose Hurtado and Felix Torres.

As play restarts, Leandro Paredes is lucky not to be booked for a bad tackle on Moises Caicedo that leaves the Chelsea man in a heap after awkwardly tumbling to the turf.

76th min: GOAL! ARGENTINA! Lautaro Martinez is fouled at the top of the penalty area, and again Argentina have a dangerous free-kick which Lionel Messi will take. Before the set-piece, Martinez limps off the pitch, replaced by Julian Alvarez, while Leandro Paredes takes Alexis Mac Allister’s spot.

Messi takes the ball, and effortlessly deposits the free-kick into the back of the net! Hernan Galindez is completely rooted to the spot! He knew it was coming, and still had no chance!

Watch in USA:


🤩 Con el sello de la casa, Messi de tiro libre la puso en el ángulo y llega a 104 goles con la albiceleste en 176 partidos.

🇦🇷 Argentina 1-0 Ecuador 🇪🇨

📺 EN VIVO por @Telemundo #RumboAlMundial #Somos26 #EliminatoriasSudamericanas

— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) September 8, 2023

71st min: Chance, Ecuador! Enner Valencia gets free behind the Argentina defense down the left wing, and he crosses perfectly for Kevin Rodriguez in front of goal! Rodriguez just has to reach the ball before his man, and he does, but then completely muffs the chance, barely even making contact while wildly swinging his left foot at the ball! What a miss for the visitors!

69th min: Chance, Argentina! Lionel Messi makes a dizzying run through midfield, leaving bodies everywhere in his wake, but his eventual shot is too weak to beat Hernan Galindez, who gets down to his right to make the stop! You’d expect him to score on that chance!

Watch in USA:

¡Messi sacó la magia🪄!

😱 Leo fue dejando rivales en el camino pero su disparo fue detendio por Hernán Galíndez

🇦🇷 Argentina 0-0 Ecuador 🇪🇨

📺 EN VIVO por @Telemundo#RumboAlMundial #Somos26 #EliminatoriasSudamericanas

— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) September 8, 2023

67th min: Ecuador look to convert a rare foray into the Argentina third, but the shot is flubbed at the top of the penalty area and Dibu Martinez can collect comfortably. The visitors then make their first changes of the match, bringing on Kevin Rodriguez and Julio Ortiz for Gonzalo Plata and Jose Cifuentes.

62nd min: Jose Cifuentes earns the first booking of the match as he chops down Alexis Mac Allister. Argentina are about to make the first substitution of the match, as Angel Di Maria is being readied on the touchline, and he’ll enter for Nico Gonzalez, who has been quiet.

60th min: Enner Valencia goes down in the 18-yard box, but the referee waves away calls for a penalty! Cristian Romero, who made the tackle, is livid with Valencia, and understandably so, as the replay shows it was a very clean tackle on the ball, and Valencia is looking to con the official.

59th min: Chance, Argentina! The hosts are pouring on the pressure now, and they come close twice! First, Nicolas Tagliafico blasts a fizzler just inches high. Then seconds later, there’s a scramble in the penalty area, and Enzo Fernandez completely whiffs!

54th min: Chance, Argentina! The hosts have a dangerous free-kick just outside the top-right corner of the penalty area, which Lionel Messi curls right onto the doorstep, but Ecuador somehow manages to scramble the ball clear! How did someone in an Albiceleste kit not turn that into the net???

Watch in USA:

¡Se la perdió Argentina😱!

😥 Ni Cuti Romero, ni Alexis Mac Allister pudieron abrir el marcador.

🇦🇷 Argentina 0-0 Ecuador 🇪🇨

📺 EN VIVO por @Telemundo#RumboAlMundial #Somos26 #EliminatoriasSudamericanas

— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) September 8, 2023

50th min: Argentina seem to have very few new ideas out of halftime. Enzo Fernandez blasts a shot from distance miles over the crossbar in a show of frustration.

Kickoff: The second half is under way, with no changes from either side. We’ll see how long Argentina go before bringing fresh legs in off the bench.

HALFTIME: Argentina 0-0 Ecuador

The opening 45 minutes was a total struggle for both sides. Argentina held much of the possession, to the tune of 70 percent, but managed to do very little with it. The few opportunities they had in front of net were flubbed by the in-form Lautaro Martinez, and Argentina fans will be itching for Julian Alvarez to play a role.

Ecuador, meanwhile, hardly had a whiff of attacking possession, managing three shots but in reality, that’s generous. Moises Caicedo struggled mightily in midfield, but the rest of the La Tri squad has managed to keep Argentina in check.

Argentina vs Ecuador: First Half

45+2 min: Chance, Argentina! The deep ball troubles Ecuador’s back line again, and this time Lautaro Martinez puts his shot off the post on the stroke of halftime! There’s a hint of offside too, but it won’t matter, as his clumsy sliding effort is denied by the woodwork!

Watch in USA:

¡El palo salvó a Ecuador😱!

🥅 Rodrigo De Paul envió un centro que remató Lautaro, pero se estrelló en el poste.

🇦🇷 Argentina 0-0 Ecuador 🇪🇨

📺 EN VIVO por @Telemundo#RumboAlMundial #Somos26 #EliminatoriasSudamericanas

— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) September 8, 2023

45+1 min: Chance, Argentina! With their build-up completely stifled, they have to go route one, serving a deep ball to the penalty spot for a headed chance. It’s cleared by Felix Torres, but dangerously so, as the Ecuador defense sends the ball nervously over their own crossbar!

The ensuing corner is cleared, but in the aftermath Moises Caicedo fouls Alexis Mac Allister hard. The Chelsea midfielder is very, very lucky to get away without a booking.

Watch in USA:

¡Se acerca Argentina💪!

😱 Félix Torres evitó el cabezazo que ya se saboreaba Nico González.

🇦🇷 Argentina 0-0 Ecuador 🇪🇨

📺 EN VIVO por @Telemundo#RumboAlMundial #Somos26 #EliminatoriasSudamericanas

— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) September 8, 2023

43rd min: Ecuador have completely hemmed in Argentina’s build-up. The hosts are struggling to advance the ball into the attacking third, and every time they do it’s had to be recycled. La Tri have hardly had a sniff of possession, but they’re completely stymying Argentina as well.

36th min: The Estadio Monumental crowd is riled up as Enner Valencia is rolling around on the ground after a foul. He was all over Alexis Mac Allister, but managed to eventually win a free-kick on the left flank. It’s delivered into the mixer dangerously, but ultimately a tame effort goes well wide of goal.

30th min: Nicolas Otamendi has a nightmare few seconds as he has his pocket picked by Gonzalo Plata in possession, and then barrels over Plata on the break at the top of the penalty area. Somehow, the official lets the foul go and Argentina survive. It should have been a dangerous set-piece opportunity for Ecuador.

28th min: Chance, Argentina! Lautaro Martinez has a shot from the top of the six-yard box blocked! He redirects a cross from Nico Gonzalez on the left flank, but it’s defended extremely well by Robert Arbeloda, turning the shot away immediately before the ball can trouble Hernan Galindez.

Rodrigo de Paul is a conduit to everything so far.

— Janusz Michallik (@JanuszMichallik) September 8, 2023

25th min: It’s been a really tough start for both Chelsea midfielders Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo. Caicedo has already committed three fouls and has been beaten a few times one-on-one, while Enzo badly misplaces a pass to give away possession at the center circle. Look away, Todd Boehly.

21st min: Enzo Fernandez fouls Pervis Estupinan in midfield to give Ecuador a bit of respite from all the Argentina possession. The hosts have held 66 percent of the ball so far.

16th min: Chance, Argentina! Lionel Messi puts one wide right! Alexis Mac Allister dribbles into the left side of the penalty area, and he cuts back for Messi trailing the play at the top of the penalty area, but the first-time hit misses the target! A nice dummy from Lautaro created space for Messi to take the shot.

Watch in USA:

➡️ Cerca #Messi de abrir el marcador para la #Argentina 🇦🇷

📺 EN VIVO por @Telemundo #RumboAlMundial #Somos26 #EliminatoriasSudamericanas

— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) September 8, 2023

12th min: Chance, Argentina! Lionel Messi is the one to serve the free-kick into the penalty area, and he puts it right on a platter in front of net, but Lautaro Martinez at full stretch can’t get contact on the delivery, and it ends up harmlessly into the arms of Hernan Galindez! He had to put that on goal! A disappointing result to cap Argentina’s the first opportunity on goal!

10th min: Moises Caicedo bundles over Lionel Messi in midfield. It gives Argentina a set-piece about 45 yards from goal. It’s too deep for a shot on net, even for the illustrious Messi, so we’ll see who is picked to deliver a ball from deep.

Caicedo needs treatment in the aftermath of the foul, and limps off the pitch, but gives his teammates a thumbs up before returning to play.

5th min: Ecuador are doing their best to force Argentina out wide, and so far it’s working. The hosts are hemmed in centrally every time they move forward, and instead have to filter the ball out to the flanks. Nico Gonzalez is the most heavily targeted in the early stages, with Nahuel Molina overlapping as Lionel Messi pinches.

This is clearly intended to neutralize Messi and force other players to beat Ecuador. We’ll see how effective it is over the course of the 90 minutes.


— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) September 8, 2023

3rd min: Lionel Messi delights the crowd as he dribbles diagonally towards the top of the penalty area, but after feeding Nicolas Tagliafico down the left, Argentina are turned away.

Seconds later the hosts recycle possession down the other flank, but a lateral cross in front of goal is cleared just before reaching Alexis Mac Allister.

The reigning champions are back on the road to the #FIFAWorldCup! 🇦🇷​🏆​#WeAre26

— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) September 8, 2023

Kickoff: Lionel Messi and Argentina have officially begun qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup! Thanks to the expanded field for the World Cup, and by proxy CONMEBOL qualifying, the defending champions are essentially assured to secure a spot.

It takes 20 seconds for Ecuador to be called for offside, as Gonzalo Plata is caught straight from kickoff.

Lionel Messi in the warm up,

— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) September 7, 2023

Argentina vs Ecuador: Pre-match commentary, analysis, stats, and more

15 mins to kick: Lionel Messi leads the Argentina squad out for warmups as this match gets close to kicking off! Estadio Monumental made their appreciation for the defending World Cup champions known.


— TyC Sports (@TyCSports) September 7, 2023

30 mins to kick: With 79 caps, Enner Valencia is a consistent presence up front for Ecuador, but of his 40 international goals, the most in Ecuador history, none have come against Argentina in six appearances. He’s also never beaten Argentina.

Valencia just scored at this very stadium recently for his club Internacional against River Plate in the Copa Libertadores. Could there be an upset today? If so, the 33-year-old will have to play a big role.

Enner Valencia, el goleador récord de Ecuador en las eliminatorias que ya complicó a River y protagoniza una historia de superación diario La Nación de Argentina

— Carlos Vasquez Layana (@LayanaVasquez) September 7, 2023

45 mins to kick: One really interesting battle in this match will be between Chelsea teammates Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo in midfield. Two players who are already battling for playing time at the club level, and now will see each other on opposite sides tonight.

“Moises is a great person,” Enzo said in the lead-up to this match. “We have talked a little about everything, not specifically about this game, but about swapping shirts after.”


Enzo Fernandez, la rivalidad con su compañero Moises Caicedo en el Ecuador 🇪🇨 vs. Argentina 🇦🇷⚽️


Informa @lopezlopezM


— KCH FM RADIO (@KCH_FM) September 5, 2023

1 hour to kickoff: The Argentina lineup that was reported earlier indeed is officially deployed by Lionel Scaloni, with Lisandro Martinez left out due to injury and Nico Gonzalez in on the left wing.

For Ecuador, it’s Al Sadd youngster Gonzalo Plata who takes the spot up front next to Enner Valencia, with Kevin Rordiguez, Jhojan Julio, and Angel Mena all passed over. Interestingly, there’s also a change in goalkeeper as the experienced Alexander Dominguez is replaced by Hernan Galindez.

⚡️Nuestro 𝗫𝗜 que saltará a la cancha en el estadio Más Monumental presentado por @gatoradeecuador

— La Tri 🇪🇨 (@LaTri) September 7, 2023

1 hour 15 mins to kick: Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni has urged his team to recall the World Cup victory fondly, but to move on as well, urging his squad to remember that “what’s past is past.”

🫡 The boss Lionel Scaloni speaks#ArgentinaNT

— Selección Argentina in English (@AFASeleccionEN) September 6, 2023

1 hour 30 mins to kick: Reports are already starting to filter in regarding Argentina’s starting lineup for their first qualifying match of the 2026 World Cup cycle.

According to Leandro Aguilera of the well-connected TyC Sports, Angel Di Maria has been dropped from the XI, replaced by the in-form Lautaro Martinez up front in a 4-3-3. Lionel Messi starts on one touchline, while Nico Gonzalez is on the other, which is harsh on Manchester United winger Alejandro Garnacho.

Another Man United player has been passed over by Lionel Scaloni as well, as Lisandro Martinez reportedly doesn’t even make the bench, with “The Butcher” apparently struggling with a slight foot injury.

🚨 Argentina starting XI: Emiliano Martínez; Molina, Romero, Otamendi, Tagliafico; De Paul, Enzo Fernández, Mac Allister, Nicolás González; Messi and Lautaro Martínez. 🇦🇷

— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) September 7, 2023

1 hour 45 mins to kick: Fans are already starting to arrive at Estadio Monumental as Argentina’s World Cup triumph still hangs in the memory for supporters in Buenos Aires!

⚽ Los hinchas van llegando al estadio Mâs Monumental para alentar a la albiceleste.

🇦🇷 La selección argentina enfrenta este jueves por la noche, a las 21hs, a Ecuador por las eliminatorias a la próxima Copa del Mundo.

— (@Rosariotres) September 7, 2023

2 hours to kickoff: Lionel Messi will be glad to look across the pitch and not see Inter Miami teammate Leonardo Campana on the other side, as Ecuador head coach Felix Sanchez chose not to call in the 23-year-old striker. Campana, like many of his club teammates, has seen a serious uptick in form since Messi arrived in South Florida, scoring off the bench last time out as Inter Miami beat defending MLS champions LAFC on the road.

Xem thêm:  Carlos Alcaraz wins in straight sets to advance to third round of US Open

Sanchez was heavily criticized for this absence, as former Ecuador head coach Jorge Celico called it an “unintelligible” decision. “Leo Campana is a spectacular boy,” Celico said of the Inter Miami man. “He is not arrogant, he is not pushy. He is a boy who, when we went shopping with the national team, did not buy anything.”


▶️ Jorge Célico se refirió a la no convocatoria de Leonardo Campana para las #EliminatoriasSudamericanas

▶️ “Es un chico espectacular, no es arrogante, no es prepotente”

¿Ustedes hubieran llamado a Leo? 🤔

ℹ️ Mach Deportes

📷 La Tri

— DSPORTS Ecuador (@DSportsEC) September 5, 2023

Argentina vs Ecuador lineups & team news

This international window was thought to finally be the long-anticipated transition from Angel Di Maria to Alejandro Garnacho on the left wing. Garnacho has been electric for Manchester United and earned increased playing time, and while an ankle injury scuppered his chance at earning a spot at the 2022 World Cup, he is now thought to be the heir apparent to Di Maria’s spot out wide.

That will have to wait, however, as Nico Gonzalez is the one to play out wide left instead of Garnacho. Lionel Scaloni has deployed Lautaro Martinez up front, rewarding his exceptional start to the Inter Milan season, while Julian Alvarez begins on the bench.

While Marcos Acuna has been the regular starter at left-back for some time now, he was not called into the squad as he sees his playing time decrease at his club Sevilla. Nicolas Tagliafico is the one to replace him, with uncapped Lucas Esquivel serving as backup.

Argentina starting lineup (4-3-3): E. Martinez (GK) — Molina, Romero, L. Martinez, Tagliafico — De Paul, E. Fernandez, Mac Allister — Messi, L. Martinez, Garnacho.

Argentina subs (12): Armani (GK), Benitez (GK), Medina, Pezzella, Montiel, Paredes, Palacios, G. Rodriguez, Di Maria, Correa, Garnacho, Alvarez.

The most prominent player for La Tri is undoubtedly Moises Caicedo who just completed a huge transfer to Premier League side Chelsea after rising to prominence at Brighton. The 21-year-old smashed the British transfer record, and has 32 international caps to his name despite his young age.

Ecuador head coach Felix Sanchez will have captain Enner Valencia leading the line for La Tri yet again, but selecting his strike partner will present a dilemma. Sanchez made the controversial decision not to call in Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami teammate Leonardo Campana, which has been heavily criticized. Instead, he will have to play alongside Gonzalo Plata, with both Kevin Rodriguez and Jhojan Julio passed over.

Another surprise exclusion was 21-year-old defender Piero Hincapie, as he has yet to debut for Bayer Leverkusen this season. Fellow center-back Xavier Arreaga was also not called in, having only just returned from a hamstring injury with the Seattle Sounders.

Ecuador starting lineup (3-5-2): Galindez (GK) — Arboleda, F. Torres, Pacho — Hurtado, Caicedo, Gruezo, Cifuentes, Estupinan — Plata, Valencia.

Ecuador subs (12): (Lineups released one hour prior to kickoff)

How to watch Argentina vs Ecuador

Following a late agreement, broadcast rights for Argentina’s World Cup qualifiers in the United States have been secured by Telemundo and Univision. That means viewers in the USA should be able to stream this match via ViX, TelevisaUnivision’s Spanish-language service.

It will also now be broadcast on TV in Spanish language via Telemundo in the United States. Fubo subscribers can also access that channel.

The match is not set to be available globally to regions including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

MORE: Watch Premier League matches live with Fubo in USA

Argentina vs Ecuador betting odds & lines

While Argentina are clearly the “better” side, it’s not in the defending champions’ DNA to blow teams apart, especially in the physical South American confederation.

Indeed, through the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, Argentina won 11 of their 17 matches, but just five of those victories came by a multiple goal margin of victory. Ecuador were not amongst that small group, bookending Argentina’s qualifying slate with a narrow 1-0 defeat and a 1-1 draw.

Despite the form Lionel Messi is in, and the positive play for others in the Argentina squad, don’t expect to see this match get out of hand.

Draw Ecuador
Both teams
to score Y / N
Over / Under
2.5 goals
-275 +400 +800 +120 / -175 -130 / -110 +100 -135

-305 +351 +682 +109 / -172 -128 / -109 +102 -135
1.37 4.80 9.50 2.23 / 1.61 1.88 / 1.92
1.38 5.20 9.00 2.23 / 1.66 1.84 / 1.98 2.11 1.74

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