On a chilly afternoon in Moscow, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria went close to scoring for Argentina in the first half, but were denied by good saves from Russian Federation captain and goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
The national side have become particularly reliant on Messi since his U-turn on retirement from worldwide football, and needed his goals against Ecuador to ensure qualification for next year's tournament. "These games are important so the coach can look at other players too, however".
Argentina struggled to break down Russia's defense but coach Jorge Sampaoli saw encouraging signs.
"We all played with intensity and took the match seriously".
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Argentina will get an early look at next year's World Cup host country on Saturday when the side travels to Russian Federation for a friendly in Moscow. They are Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France.
Messi said, "We did not win - and we all went through that".
"The team dominated Rusia at home and we have to continue moving forward collectively ahead of what's coming".
The goal took the Manchester City star into equal third with Hernan Crespo for most goals for Argentina, and Messi was happy for his friend. "We made some mistakes in the first half but in the second we improved". We created resistance to the pressure our opponent put us under.
Argentina's victor came with just four minutes to play and the victory marks another important milestone for Jorge Sampaoli. "We must learn how to endure and win when we're placed in such situations".