He drove forward and hammered the ball into the roof of the net.
In doing so, he also replicated another Argentine legend other than Maradona, and showed another ability.
The wonder now is also whether he will save them and influence them in a different way.
There was clearly something more going on with this star-studded Argentina side than a lack of talent or form.
The saviour was already there in Messi and, having rescued them from what have been the final looming humiliation of failing to qualify, the tantalising proposition is that he will now release them; that they will have the calmer mindset to work with Sampaoli’s clearly effective successful system.
Such dynamics have been seen before in international football on qualification, not least from this country in 1985. The bottom line, importantly for now, is that Messi has hit another peak to take Argentina to the World Cup.
He instead had the calmness to finish with the outside of his foot after just 11 minutes following a deliciously simple one-two with Angel Di Maria to make it 1-1.This was the Hand of God in a different way, and the way he did it was even more impressive than the bold bald fact that Messi scored a hat-trick to deliver his side to the World Cup.There was first of all the problem that all of Argentina’s worst fears seemed to be coming through, because fear had so afflicted the rest of the players beyond Messi and Javier Mascherano. That anxiety became something else, something worse.Following the match Sampaoli had gone as far as to say football owed Messi the World Cup, suggesting the tournament would not be the same without the player considered by many to be the greatest of all time.'Today luckily the nationality of the best player in the world is Argentinian,' he said.'We must be sure everything does not depend on Leo (Messi) (but) today he brought his great ability.'I told the group: Messi did not owe the World Cup to Argentina, but football owed the World Cup to Messi.'We should help him be in the World Cup,' Sampaoli added.Argentina progressed in third place, behind Brazil who won the group and Uruguay.