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Messi fires Argentina to World Cup, Robben retires with Netherlands exit

Lionel Messi’s hat-trick Tuesday night fired Argentina into a spot in the Russia 2018 World Cup in a 3-1 win over Ecuador.

Argentina started the final night of South American qualifying in sixth place, with only the top four qualifying for the World Cup while the fifth goes to an intercontinental playoff against New Zealand.

The night began slow for the winning side after Ecuador drew the first blood in the opening minute with a goal from Romario Ibarra.

Argentina were level in the 11th minute with a Messi goal and went ahead seven minutes later.

The Barcelona forward wrapped up the night with a third strike in the 62nd minute.

The win means Argentina will finish in third, and that books them a place along with Uruguay, Colombia and already-qualified Brazil, while Peru heads to next month’s playoff at the expense of Chile, who were eliminated.

Meawhile, Netherlands captain Arjen Robben has retired from international football after his side failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

A 2-0 win over Ssweden with both goals from Robben was not enough for the Dutch to reach the play-offs.

The Bayern Munich forward said: “It hasn’t been an easy decision but I am 33 and now must give my full focus to my club.”

Robben made his debut in April 2003 and won 96 caps, scoring 37 times.

He is joint fourth on the Netherlands’ all-time goalscorer list, level with former Arsenal forward Dennis Bergkamp.

Robben was part of the squads which finished third at the 2014 World Cup and lost the 2010 final to Spain.

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