Days after winning the Finalissima against Italy (June 1), Argentina returned to action with a friendly bout against Estonia on Sunday night (June 5).
Albeit a friendly, La Albiceleste refused to treat it as such, bagging an emphatic 5-0 win at the El Sadar Stadium. Their skipper, Lionel Messi, made history by scoring all five goals on the night.
Lionel Scaloni made a plethora of changes to the team that started against Italy, but kept Messi in the team. The Paris Saint-Germain forward thoroughly enjoyed playing against Estonia and walked away with the second five-goal haul of his career.
He got his first for Barcelona against Bayer Leverkusen back in 2012. With last night’s quintuple, he has become the only player in history to score five at both club as well as international level.
Fourth-placed Argentina were always expected to dominate Estonia, who find themselves in the 110th position in FIFA Men’s Ranking. The hosts rarely misplaced passes, created plenty of opportunities, and hardly gave Estonia a chance to settle on the ball.
Argentina came off the gates all guns blazing and won a penalty in the seventh minute. The skipper stepped up for the resultant spot kick and unhesitantly put it away. In the 37th minute, Joaquin Correa had an opportunity to double Argentina’s lead, but he fluffed his lines just before pulling the trigger, skying his effort. Their second of the night finally came just before the half-time whistle. Messi latched on to Alejandro Gomez’s throughball and thumped his effort over the head of Estonian goalkeeper Matvei Igonen and into the top corner.
Two minutes into the second half, Messi completed his hat-trick, using his clever movement to apply a deft touch to Nahuel Molina’s delivery inside the box. The 34-year-old scored his final two goals of the night in the 71st and 76th minutes, respectively, giving Igonen no chance whatsoever.
It was a commanding display by Argentina and the scoreline certainly did reflect that.
On that note, here are five Argentine players who shone the brightest in their team’s commanding 5-0 victory over Estonia on Sunday:
#5 German Pezzella
Real Betis centre-back German Pezzella superbly linked the midfield with the defense.
His passing was superb, he did not let Estonian attackers get a sniff of the goal, and won a penalty.
In the seventh minute, he drew a foul from Estonian goalkeeper Igonen, prompting the referee to point to the spot. Messi stepped up and comfortably put away the penalty.
Pezzella also completed 93 of his 95 passes (highest in the match) and made a clearance and three recoveries.
He won three of his four duels and accurately delivered a long ball as well.
#4 Rodrigo De Paul
Rodrigo De Paul, who was in superb form in the 3-0 win over Italy on June 2, replicated his brilliance against Estonia.
The Atletico Madrid man fought for every ball, dictated the tempo of the game, and kept Estonia from creating chances through midfield play.
De Paul attained 88 percent passing accuracy (100 total passes), created a chance, completed both his dribbles, and accurately delivered one long ball.
He also won four of his five ground duels, registered seven recoveries, and made an interception.
A great outing from the 28-year-old midfielder.
#3 Julian Alvarez
Incoming Manchester City forward Julian Alvarez put in quite a shift on Sunday. He could not find the back of the net, but his overall involvement was top drawer.
He passed brilliantly, helped out at the back, carried the ball well and was imperious in the duels
The 22-year-old attained 93 percent passing accuracy (44 total passes), had three shots on target, and completed three dribbles.
He also won both his tackles, emerged on top in six of his seven duels and made an interception.
#2 Alejandro Gomez
Sevilla star Alejandro Gomez emerged as Argentina’s creative fulcrum on Sunday night.
Almost every passage of impressive play went through him and he kept the Estonian players guessing all night long.
Gomez, who assisted Messi’s second goal of the night with a gorgeous through-ball, created four chances, the most by any player on the pitch.
He also completed a dribble, accurately delivered two crosses, made five recoveries and won four ground duels.
#1 Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi was at his imperious best against Estonia on Sunday. He scored all five of Argentina’s goals, created chances, carried the ball with ease, and won his duels. Scaloni could not have asked for anything more from the legendary No. 10.
His first goal came in the eighth minute from the penalty spot, following a foul on German Pezzella by Estonian goalkeeper Igonen. Messi slotted his penalty down the right, keeping the keeper rooted to the spot. The former Barcelona superstar doubled his tally in the 45th minute, applying a clever finish following an inch-perfect throughball by Alejandro Gomez.
His third of the night came just a couple of minutes into the second half, from Molina’s inviting cross. The PSG man positioned himself and timed his run perfectly to get to his delivery and tuck it away.
His fourth, in the 71st minute, was a solo goal, demonstrating his dribbling and finishing skills, with him taking the ball away from Igonen and slotting it in.
Messi’s fifth goal arrived only five minutes later, punishing Igonen for not being able to clear the ball.
After Julian Alvarez and Paulo Dybala failed to find the back of the net, the ball fell kindly to Messi. The type of form that he was in, he unhesitantly slotted it home from close range.
Messi also created three chances, completed six dribbles, won seven duels and made three recoveries.
A five-star performance from the diminutive Argentine.