Gerardo Martino was effusive in his praise of the “phenomenal” Lionel Messi after Argentina’s 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Chile in Santiago.
Captain Messi missed his country’s first four qualifiers, but was key as Argentina came from a goal down to gain a measure of revenge on the team that beat them in last year’s Copa America final.
“Messi was absolutely phenomenal in the first half,” Martino said.
“He was less influential after the break because he did not see as much of the ball as in the first half.
“We sat a bit deeper after the break in order to contain Chile. They are one of the best teams in the world. We really needed a win here.
“Either way, regardless of whether it was the defeat versus Ecuador or the win over Colombia, the absence of the best player in the world hurt us.
“We always play better when Messi is there.”