BY TIM VICKERY
All the debutant coaches had wins to celebrate in the seventh round of South America’s World Cup qualification campaign, while Lionel Messi announced himself back on the international scene in style.
The reign of Angel Guillermo Hoyos in charge of Bolivia got off to a victorious start with a 2-0 win over Peru in the first game of the day, and Francisco Arce’s Paraguay brought the curtain down with a 2-1 triumph over Chile — a result that leaves the Copa Centenario champions down in seventh position. In between, in the outstanding result of the round, Tite’s Brazil won 3-0 away to Ecuador, and Edgardo Bauza got off to a winning start with Argentina, who beat by the only goal against historic rivals Uruguay.
But the night of the new boys also belonged to the man who thought long and hard about leaving the scene. Thankfully, Messi went back on his decision to retire from representing Argentina. In an age where club football has become so dominant, the international game can ill afford to lose such an extraordinary talent, who gave a cameo of his genius when he managed to breach the typically determined and defiant Uruguayan defence in Argentina’s 1-0 victory.
There was hardly a square inch of space on the edge of the opposing penalty area. But it was one of those moments when Messi is worthy of the words the BBC radio commentator used as Diego Maradona set off on the run that would lead to his stunning second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals.