Despite its ranking of second in the world, and soon to be No. 1, Argentina had hardly played at that caliber during the first five matches of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.
In its first three matches, the 2014 World Cup runners-up lost to Ecuador and drew to Paraguay and Brazil. It seems to be righting the ship, though, after its third straight triumph in qualifying with a 2-0 victory over South American minnows Bolivia on Tuesday night.
Argentina also received some help from Colombia, who beat leaders Ecuador earlier on Tuesday. Now with 11 points in six matches, La Albiceleste sit just two points off the top spot.
From the opening kick, Argentina simply dominated a Bolivia team ranked 72nd in the world, thanks to its superior talent and relentless attack.
Gabriel Mercado opened the scoring in the 20th minute, thanks to the efforts of Gonzalo Higuain, who dissected the Bolivian defense and lofted an effort over the keeper, but he saw his chance cleared off the line.
The clearance came right back to Higuain, who fed Mercado and fired the Argentinians in front, via TV Publica Canal 7:
TV Pública Argentina @TV_Publica
[AHORA] #SomosArgentina | 19' PT | Gol de Gabriel Mercado. #ARGENTINA 1 - 0 #BOLIVIA https://t.co/BnW927gTqu2016-3-29 23:52:40
Bolivia conceded a penalty eight minutes later after Ronald Eguino pulled down Ever Banega in the box.
Up stepped the mercurial Lionel Messi, who fired home not only Argentina's second, but a historic goal, via ESPNFC:
ESPN FC @ESPNFC
GOAL, Lionel Messi! He's scored his 50th goal for Argentina, becoming just the second Argentine to reach that mark! https://t.co/ISneQMQ7202016-3-30 00:03:06
Messi wasn't just scoring; he also exhibited the type of skill on the ball that has made him one of the top players in the world, via the Catalan Giant:
The Catalan Giant @TheCataIanGiant
Messi dribble vs. Bolivia. (@LaPelotaNSM) https://t.co/GRQ0fjX0jf2016-3-30 00:40:20
The good feelings quickly evaporated when Angel Di Maria had to be substituted due to injury.
To ESPN's Jonathan Johnson, who covers Di Maria's domestic side of Paris Saint Germain, it could smell trouble to the French side that is in the Champions League quarterfinals:
Jonathan Johnson @Jon_LeGossip
Looks like a potential disaster for PSG. Argentina's Angel Di Maria taken off injured after 31 minutes vs. Bolivia. https://t.co/jg1FWeQ1yg2016-3-30 00:24:51
The extent of the injury and a timetable for a possible return has not been disclosed as of yet.
Di Maria's exit, though, didn't slow Argentina down, who simply monopolized possession on the game and made Bolivia look like an amateur side.
Argentina held 80 percent of possession on the night and outshot Bolivia, 23-3. Bolivia's first shot of the day didn't even come until the 53rd minute.
With that kind of domination, it was surprising that Argentina couldn't find a way to extend its lead and build up its goal differential, which could come in handy as qualifying continues. The likes of Ecuador and Uruguay have superior differentials if Argentina is able to capture them in the coming months.
For a roster that's stacked with premier talent and headed by one of the greatest players the game has ever seen, it's safe to say that Argentina will get there though with 12 matches remaining in the first round of qualifying.
Stats courtesy of ESPNFC.com