World Cup qualifying in South America gets underway Thursday with Lionel Messi and Argentina facing Ecuador in Buenos Aires. It's the first game of an 18-match schedule to determine the teams that qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. These two teams met in the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, with Messi scoring a clutch hat-trick to get his country to Russia.
Here's how you can watch the match and what to know:
Date: Thursday, Oct., 8 | Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: La Bombonera -- Buenos Aires, Argentina
TV: None | Live stream: Fanatiz USA (pay-per-view)
Odds: Argentina -450; Draw +450; Ecuador +1100 (via William Hill Sportsbook)
Argentina: The expectations are high for this Argentina side that looks totally different from the last cycle. A lot of the former players have moved on or not been chosen, and there is a bit of a youth movement in the side with 16 players the age of 26 or younger. Expect the team to be lively, quick to get forward and to field a really young side, outside of guys like Messi and Nicolas Otamendi. This is a new Argentina still looking to build chemistry, and they have a chance here to kick off their campaign on the right foot, but the creativity in attack will be key.
Ecuador: The national team has a new coach in Argentine Gustavo Alfaro -- formerly of Boca Juniors, Rosario Central, San Lorenzo and other clubs. He is one of the more highly-regarded coaches from the country in South America and has proven to be able to do more with less, like when he was the coach of Arsenal de Sarandi. Against his country of birth, a place he has coached since 1992, he embarks on quite the journey where, defensively, his team will aim to be physical, quick with the ball and double team Messi.
Messi shines, Lautaro Martinez gets a goal and the hosts get all three points. Pick: Argentina 3, Ecuador 1