Argentina beat Venezuela 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier in Buenos Aires on Friday, scoring twice in three minutes late in the second half, including a bizarrely mis-hit effort from Lionel Messi.
Argentina had already qualified for the World Cup finals in Qatar prior to Friday’s match, and they dominated the game against the bottom-placed team in the South American qualifying group, as well as the only one of the ten South American teams to never reach the finals.
Nicolas Gonzalez knocked home Rodrigo De Paul’s inviting low cross from six meters out 10 minutes before half-time, giving them the breakthrough their pressure deserved.
In the 79th minute, substitute Angel Di Maria scored a beautiful second goal, running on to a through pass from De Paul and chipping the ball over three Venezuelan defenders from outside the box.
Three minutes later, Messi scored the third goal, chesting down a Di Maria pass and scuffing the ball past a helpless keeper, Wuilker Farinez.
‘We’re overjoyed,’ De Paul said, ‘and we love playing in this shirt.’ The best thing about this team is that it treats every game as if it were the championship game. This is the crux of the matter. ‘I’m not going to stop.’
Venezuela’s loss was their 10th in their last 12 games, while Argentina’s unbeaten streak under coach Lionel Scaloni now stands at 30 games, dating back to July 2019.
In eight home qualifiers, the home team has never lost to Venezuela, despite having four players suspended for violating Covid-19 quarantine rules ahead of the suspended game against Brazil in September.
Brazil, Ecuador, and Uruguay will join the two-time world champions and current Copa America winners in Qatar, while Peru, Colombia, and Chile will compete for fifth place and a playoff spot against a team from the Asian confederation.
The final round of games will be held on Tuesday.