MONTEVIDEO: Lionel Messi transferred his club form for Spanish giants Barcelona to World Cup qualifying action for Argentina, with a brilliant brace of goals helping his country to a 3-0 win over Uruguay.
Messi opened the scoring in the 66th minute when he slid in from a cross by Angel Di Maria with his second goal -- and his team's third -- coming eight minutes from time.
In between, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero hit the target, again from good approach work from the tireless Di Maria.
The win left the 1978 and 1986 world champions on top of the nine-nation South American group with 17 points from eight matches, one ahead of Colombia and Ecuador who both also won on Friday. Uruguay remain in the fourth and final automatic qualifying place.
Messi immediately turned his thoughts to Tuesday's away qualifying match against Chile.
“We were superior throughout and deserved the three points,” said Messi.
“They only wanted to defend, but luckily we won convincingly.
“When we opened the score, spaces started opening up and it became easier.
“We took a very important step and now we have to go to Chile, which will be tough, like all away matches in this tournament.
“But we go feeling confident because the squad is strong.”
Messi said it was good to see the public getting behind the team.
“Now that we're delivering results, people are happy with this team. Our squad is becoming increasingly strong. I feel an immense joy among our fans and it makes us feel proud.
“I'm always happy to be in the team. Of course, when the result go our way, we can work more calmly. What's good is that we continue to improve.”
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said there were “no adjectives to describe” Messi.
“I praise the players who produced a very good game, because they remained calm and play as a team,” Sabella said.
“We told them not to get desperate, not to make mistakes given the danger of the Uruguyan forwards.
“We're on the up, we have a very good squad of players, we talk over our ideas amongst ourselves and how to carry them out. The work is reaping its benefits and we remain optimistic.”