Lionel Messi was delighted with the support the Argentina fans showed him in their 3-0 World Cup qualification win over Uruguay on Friday.
The Barcelona star has generally struggled to replicate his club form for the national team, resulting in a rather critical attitude from the Argentine faithful.
However, the 25-year-old netted twice against the 2011 Copa America winners to help his side to the full three points, and stressed he is thoroughly enjoying playing for the national side.
“I was always happy playing for Argentina. Now that we are winning, things are easier and it’s easier to enjoy,” he told reporters.
“I’m happy that the Argentina fans are treating me with a lot of love. It happened at River Plate, then in Cordoba, today here in Mendoza. I’m happy that Argentina fans are treating me like Barcelona fans treat me.”
The prolific attacker then underlined the importance of the victory over Uruguay, and voiced his determined to take another step toward qualification in the upcoming match against Chile.
“This win is very important and if we win in Chile, we would take a huge step towards our goal of making it to the World Cup,” Messi said.
“Chile will be very difficult because they have a great team and they need to win. It’s going to be complicated.”
Messi scored his second from a clever free-kick, sliding the ball underneath the wall and into the bottom corner.
The Ballon d’Or winner explained he was inspired to attempt the effort after watching Andrea Pirlo and Ronaldinho succeed with similar strikes in recent weeks.
“I saw that the goalkeeper wanted to come forward and also noticed the wall was preparing to jump,” he said.
“I saw recently that Pirlo and Ronaldinho had scored this way. I had some doubts, but I gave it a go and it went well.”
Manchester City attacker Sergio Aguero was keen to stress the powerful South Americans are not yet guaranteed a spot at the finals in Brazil.
“I feel we are getting closer to the World Cup. The fans have huge expectations towards 2014. We are still a long way from the World Cup and we will have time to think about that,” Aguero said.
“We couldn’t score in the first half but then in the second we kept playing at a good level and it was a matter of time before we scored.
“I’m fine, I’m not injured. I got kicked on the leg but I’m fine.”
Argentina sit top of their qualification section with 17 points from eight games.