BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – Gonzalo Higuain scored three goals and Lionel Messi added another as Argentina defeated Chile 4-1 on Friday in the first round of South American World Cup qualifying for each country.
Argentina, looking strong under new coach Alejandro Sabella, dominated from the start. Higuain scored in the eighth minute, Messi added his in the 26th. Higuain added his second in the 52nd and completed his hat trick in the 63rd.
Matias Fernandez scored for Chile in the 60th.
''The important thing is to start off with a victory,'' Higuain said. ''Chile is a tough rival. But getting off on the right foot is very important.''
Argentina, which was knocked out of the Copa America in the quarterfinals three months ago, looked poised and always threatening under Sabella, who replaced the fired Sergio Batista.
''We stayed organized, and we concentrated on what we were doing the whole game,'' Sabella said.
Higuain scored his first on a long, arching pass from his Real Madrid teammate Angel Di Maria.
Messi broke through in the 26th, taking a pass from Higuain and slotting home a shot from 14 meters (yards). It was Messi's first goal for Argentina in 17 competitive matches, having not scored in seven World Cup qualifiers, five games at the World Cup and four in the Copa America.
Humberto Suazo had Chile's best chance of the first half in the 43rd, but just shot just wide from close range.
Higuain made it 3-0 in the 52nd, this time take a centering pass from Di Maria and drilling home the shot.
After Fernandez scored in the 60th, Higuain notched his third with Messi setting up the goal with a perfect pass.
Argentina: Mariano Andujar, Pablo Zabaleta, Nicolas Burdisso, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Rodrigo Brana, Ever Banega (Fabian Rinaudo, 72), Jose Sosa (Eduardo Salvio, 79), Angel di Maria (Jonas Gutierrez, 85), Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain.
Chile: Claudio Bravo, Gonzalo Jara, Waldo Ponce, Arturo Vidal, Mauricio Isla, Carlos Carmona, Jean Beausejour (Marco Gonzalez), Jorge Valdivia, Matias Fernandez (Cristobal Jorquera, 81), Mauricio Pinilla (Eduardo Vargas, 54), Humberto Suazo.