Roger Gonzalez of CBS Sports broke down the scenarios, noting the top four teams in CONMEBOL would automatically qualify for Russian Federation 2018 with the fifth-place team set to play New Zealand in a playoff.
Prior to finding the back of the net not once, not twice, but three times on Tuesday evening, Messi and Argentina notably found themselves down 1-0 early.
The world's greatest player added another thrilling chapter to his legacy last night by scoring a hat-trick to send Argentina to the 2018 World Cup.
"There was always the fear of coming here to play", Messi said, per the Mail.
There were songs, some with rude references to reporters who had questioned the players, and Messi ended his self-imposed media ban and addressed Argentinian reporters for the first time in nearly a year.
Which country stands a better chance at the World Cup: Argentina or Portugal?
At a crucial moment, Argentina needed Messi to step in and avoid what could have been a humiliating exit.
In the 12th minute of the game, Messi scored his first goal and equalised for Argentina.
Luckily for football fans the Barcelona player found his cape pretty quickly, and set about saving his team's World Cup hopes.
Meanwhile, the United States failed to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1986 after they fell to a 2-1 defeat against Trinidad and Tobago.
The Barcelona striker, awarded the Ballon d'Or in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015, rescued a World Cup berth, but coach Jorge Sampaoli knows it will take more than one player, however good, to go far in Russian Federation.
"As national team players we have gone through many situations". France Football have just announced the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d'Or with voting not due to close until November. All teams are within one goal of each other on goal differential. The rules on voting can be read here.
Do you think Argentina could go on to win the 2018 World Cup? Will Messi's Ecuadorian excellence propel him to a sixth win?