Many Argentina fans may have been fearing the worst when Germany raced into a 2-0 lead inside 22 minutes during Wednesday's friendly in Dortmund, with the hosts threatening to inflict further punishment on Lionel Scaloni's side.
However, not only did the visitors avoid any more damage, they also launched a stirring fightback in the final 25 minutes with goals from Lucas Alario and Lucas Ocampos securing an entertaining 2-2 draw.
It will go down as a good result for an Argentina side missing a number of star names from recent years - aside from Messi the likes of Sergio Aguero and Angel di Maria were also absent as Scaloni looks to usher in a new era for the two-time world champions.
That being said, Argentina are above Germany in the FIFA rankings and have now only lost one of their last eight games across all competitions - a 2-0 defeat to eventual winners Brazil in the semi-finals of the Copa America.
Argentina's progress seems to be heading in the right direction, then, and there are also the green shoots of recovery showing for Ecuador following a disastrous and chaotic period in their recent history.
No fewer than seven players - including former Manchester United captain and arguably Ecuador's greatest ever player Antonio Valencia - have been suspended by the FA for behaviour-related issues during the Copa America, when they were dumped out in the group stages.
Manager Hernan Dario Gomez unsurprisingly left following that debacle and his permanent replacement remains uncertain, although caretaker Jorge Celico has certainly not done his chances any harm so far.
Celico lost both of his matches in his previous experience of the Ecuador hot seat and had since been in charge of the Under-20s, but during his current spell he has led the team to successive wins and clean sheets, ending a run of seven games without victory.
Not since 2015 have Ecuador won three games in a row, and the fact that they beat Copa America runners-up Peru and Bolivia last month will give them the confidence to believe they can topple Argentina too.
Ecuador form: LLLDWW
Argentina form: WLWDWD
Messi remains Argentina's most high-profile absentee as he continues to serve a suspension for comments made after this summer's Copa America, while Mauro Icardi was left out of the squad.
Lautaro Martinez is beginning to establish himself as Argentina's main striker having scored three goals in his last three internationals, with Paulo Dybala offering able support from a slightly deeper role.
Ocampos and Alario both came off the bench to score against Germany and may be hopeful of starting this match as a result, while Marcos Rojo's mistake in that game could cost him his place.
The suspensions meted out by the Ecuadorian FA have left Celico with a threadbare squad to choose from, with only three of the 19-man roster having earned 10 caps or more for their country.
Ecuador possible starting lineup:
Padilla; Espinoza, Porozo, Arreaga, Palacios; Cifuentes, Mendez; Castillo, Sornoza, Plata; Valencia
Argentina possible starting lineup:
Marchesin; Foyth, Otamendi, Acuna, Tagliafico; De Paul, Paredes; Ocampos, Dybala, Correa; Martinez
We say: Ecuador 0-1 Argentina
Ecuador have shown significant signs of improvement over the past two games but, even including their win over Peru, this match is likely to be another step up in quality. Both sides are missing some of their more recognisable names, but Argentina still have plenty of quality in their ranks and should have enough to win this game.
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