Quito, ECUADOR: A hat-trick from Lionel Messi is all that Argentina needed to cruise past hosts Ecuador 3-0 to qualify for the 2018 World Cup to be held in Russia.
Argentina who lost to Germany in the 2014 finals were on the brink of missing the global showpiece for the first time since 1970 before Messi showed his great ability by patching three goals.
The victory lifted Argentina to third in the 10-team table standings having amassed 28 points, three a drift of second placed Uruguay who thumped Bolivia 4-2.
Elsewhere, Chile failed to qualify for the World Cup following a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil who had already booked a booked a ticket for the championship.
In other matches Colombia advanced after a 1-1 draw with Peru who finished fifth in South American qualifying and will now meet New Zealand in a two-legged play-off.