They made a terrible start in Quito, conceding inside 38 seconds, but the Barcelona superstar led Argentina’s fight back to ensure they secured their place in next year’s tournament.It was part of a remarkable night of football that saw:Panama qualify for their first World Cup with a controversial goal in a 2-1 win over Costa RicaThe United States miss out on the tournament for the first time since 1986 after losing to Trinidad & TobagoChile manager Juan Antonio Pizzi step down after his side lost to Brazil to miss out on qualifying for their third consecutive World CupPortugal beat Switzerland to replace them at the top of their qualifying group but the Netherlands go out despite winningMessi said it would have been “crazy” had Argentina not qualified for Russia 2018, but it took his intervention to ensure they reached their 12th consecutive World Cup.Ecuador scored in the first minute, taking advantage of Argentina’s hesitancy, before Messi struck twice before half-time to calm some nerves.His third, a lofted chip over goalkeeper Maximo Banguera, saw his country win for the first time in the Ecuadorian capital since 2001 and, crucially, reach next year’s World Cup.Sampaoli warned against Argentina depending too much on Messi – despite it being a remarkable 11 months since any other Argentina player scored for the national team in a World Cup qualifier.“Today, luckily, the nationality of the best player in the world is Argentinean,” Sampaoli continued.“We must be sure everything does not depend on Leo but today he brought his great ability. I told the group we should help him be in the World Cup.”Nestled between Kuwait and Moldova as the world’s 131st most populous nation, Panama’s biggest football achievement up until Tuesday evening was finishing as runner-up in the 2013 Gold Cup.Now, they have reached their first World Cup – but it was not without controversy, because the Gabriel Torres’ header that drew Panama level with Costa Rica did not appear to cross the line.Despite furious complaints from the visitors, the goal stood, and Roman Torres struck in the final few minutes to send Panama through.It was a neat reversal of fortunes for Panama, who missed out on qualifying for the last World Cup after conceding two goals in stoppage time against the US in 2013.This time, though, it was their 87th-minute winner that ensured their place in Russia – at the expense of the US.In contrast to Panama, the United States has a population of 323.1 million. Their opponents on Tuesday, Trinidad and Tobago, have a population of 1.3m – roughly the same as the US state of Maine.Described as the “most surreal and embarrassing night in US soccer history” and “simply devastating” by American journalists, the players were left in tears following their shock 2-1 loss.“It’s a blemish for us. We should not be staying at home for this World Cup and I take responsibility,” coach Bruce Arena said of a team ranked 28th in the world.“We failed on the day. No excuses. We failed today. We should have walked off this field with at least a point.”Captain Michael Bradley described the night as the “perfect storm”.“Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did, in this stadium and in two other stadiums across the (CONCACAF) region,” he added.“To give away the first goal like that (an own goal) is a killer. But the reality is it was all there for us, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram WORLD CUP 2018Lionel Messiâ€™s hat-trick against Ecuador – the 44th of his career – ensured Argentina survived a scare to reach the World Cup finals on Tuesday night (early Wednesday morning in Nigeria).The 2014 runners-up began the day sixth in the group, knowing only a top-four place would see them qualify automatically for Russia.
Boxing Day fixtures: All nine Premier League games live on talkSPORT SORRY Liverpool beat West Ham 4-1 in the same fixture last season. The Reds pinpointed their main targets and snagged them early, while West Ham have gone for a slightly more scattergun approach, opting for some quality while also adding quantity with 10 deals going through.But who will hit the ground running when the Premier League campaign begins?The game at Anfield kicks off at 1:30pm on Sunday, August 12 and you can listen to it live on talkSPORT. silverware The average first-team salaries at every Premier League club in 2019 How Chelsea could line up against Southampton – what system will Lampard play? Liverpool news live: Klopp reveals when Minamino will play and issues injury update predicted gameday cracker smart causal What the managers are saying:Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool): “If you ask me whether it is the best squad I have ever had or whatever I don’t think about that because it is not about what we have now it is about what we make of it, how often we deliver, how often we bring ourselves in a mood to fight with these Premier League teams who want to have our points.” Every current Premier League club’s best kit from the past decade REVEALED huge blow Tottenham v Brighton LIVE: talkSPORT commentary and team news for Boxing Day opener NEW ERA 3 Latest Premier League News Most Popular Premier League News Every current Premier League club’s best kit from the past decade Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp laughs during pre-season. whoops BIG PRESENTS UP TOP Did Mahrez just accidentally reveal Fernandinho is leaving Man City this summer? Sky Sports presenter apologises for remarks made during Neville’s racism discussion Tottenham predicted XI to face Brighton with Mourinho expected to make big changes 3 What every Premier League club’s fans dream of this Christmas REVEALED possible standings How can I listen?Click here to listen to live commentary of Liverpool vs West Ham on talkSPORT.Team newsLiverpool definitely without Dejan Lovren, while Fabinho is out a doubt.West Ham United, meanwhile, must do without Winston Reid, Andy Carroll and Manuel Lanzini, while Edimilson Fernandes is a doubt with a minor knock. Where Ancelotti ranks with every Premier League boss for trophies won How Everton could look in January under Ancelotti with new signings silverware gameday Manuel Pellegrini (West Ham): “Normally when you bring in so many players you need a period of adjustment, but football does not allow you to have that period.“We need to be a competitive team on Sunday and after that next week.“I hope all the players who have been working around one month, except for the players who arrived late, can be ready to start to be a competitive team.” Liverpool and West Ham United must wait until Sunday to kick their season off.The duo will do battle at Anfield with both managers enjoying what they will deem a successful summer transfer window, even if the style was different. revealed How the Premier League table could change after the Boxing Day fixtures ALTERED How Arsenal could line up in Arteta’s first official game in charge – Ozil return? England’s most successful clubs of the past decade, according to trophies won possible standings 3 latest England’s most successful clubs of the past decade, according to trophies won Oxlade-Chamberlain suffers another setback as Klopp confirms serious injury How the Premier League table could change after the Boxing Day fixtures possible xi Which teams do the best on Boxing Day in the Premier League era? smart causal Andy Carroll’s injury curse has struck again Predicted teamsPredicted Liverpool XI: Alisson; Clyne, Robertson, Gomez, Van Dijk; Milner, Wijnaldum, Keita; Mane, Salah, Firmino.Predicted West Ham XI: Fabianski; Fredericks, Masuaku, Diop, Ogbonna; Obiang, Wilshere, Noble, Anderson, Yarmolenko, Arnautovic.