Lionel Messi has admitted his Argentina team-mates feared retribution from fans if they had missed out on World Cup qualification, The Express reports.
Messi scored a hat-trick in Argentina’s 3-1 win at Ecuador on Tuesday night to fire his country to Russia 2018.
Argentina faced being eliminated from qualifying but their talisman came to the rescue with all three goals.
And Barcelona star Messi has revealed fear drove his team-mates to victory.
“It was the fear of being knocked out, that would have been crazy for Argentina, for us and for everyone,” Messi told reporters after the match.
“Obviously there was the fear, but today (Tuesday) we knew how to play.
It was the fear that saved us. We had missed opportunities ourselves.
“It was the fear of being left out (of Russia). It would have been crazy, not just for me, I don’t know how I’d have reacted, but for the whole Argentina.”
Argentina qualified as one of the top four teams from South America along with Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia.
Peru, meanwhile, will take part in a playoff round against New Zealand in November.
Messi added, “Luckily we reacted quickly after the Ecuador’s goal.
“It is important we all unite as a team. If we all go hand in hand it is much easier.
“Thank the people for all the support, in particular, in this double date of qualifiers.”