Messi scored, hit the post and terrorised Germany’s defence in a way that only he can as his side made full use of their numerical advantage during the final hour to end up winners of a match that threatened to go the other way early on.
Angel Di Maria, whose cross had led to Sami Khedira’s own goal in first-half stoppage time, added the third, while Benedikt Hoewedes pulled one pack for Germany late on.
It was only once former Manchester United goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler saw red for a foul on Jose Sosa after half an hour that the game began to develop a pattern.
Zieler’s dismissal meant a second cap for Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen and the unenviable task of facing a Messi penalty within seconds of coming on for Thomas Mueller.
Ter Stegen did the unthinkable by falling low to his left and smothering the ball after what had been a very weak strike by Messi’s standards, the World Player of the Year even managing to stutter during his run-up.
It was just the confidence-booster that the youngster needed as he saw far more of the ball within five minutes than Zieler had in his half-hour on the pitch. The tide was turning in Argentina’s favour though, with Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano dictating most of the play from midfield as his side’s extra man began to count.
Germany still looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with veteran striker Miroslav Klose failing to get his right boot to a beautifully-weighted cross from Marcel Schmelzer with goalkeeper Sergio Romero easily beaten. The German captain had earlier set-up Mesut Ozil with a near-post chance after some fabulous interplay with Marco Reus on the left wing.
Despite having the greater amount of possession in the final 15 minutes of the first half, there was more than a touch of good fortune about Argentina’s opener as Di Maria’s near-post cross cruelly deflected past Ter Stegen off the knee of Khedira.
Had Gonzalo Higuain, who ended the game with a bandaged head and strapped knee, volleyed in an early far-post chance, then the scoreline might have looked more impressive by the break. As it was, Argentina saved their best until the second half.
First Messi doubled his side’s advantage, calmly slotting home from the edge of the box after receiving Higuain’s low cross, and then he set about pestering the German defence relentlessly, with a series of jinking runs forcing Ter Stegen to stay alert for the rest of the match.
A wonderful back-heeled pass to Higuain should have resulted in a third goal, but the latter’s chipped shot beat not only Ter Stegen, but the far post as well. There was to be another goal from the feet of a Real Madrid player though when Di Maria’s first-time shot from 30 yards rocketed into the net.
Germany’s consolation came in the shape of a lively performance from substitute Andre Schuerrle, and the Chelsea target supplied the cross for Hoewedes to head home his first international goal.
It could have been even closer though had Khedira not strayed offside three minutes after the break before setting-up Ozil for a near-post finish. Had Ozil’s finish, which came shortly after Reus’s shot had cannoned off the post, evened up the scoreline, the outcome could have been different.
Argentina boss Alejandro Sabella will have learnt little from the victory, but the result itself will have instilled a confidence in his side, that did not appear evident at kick-off, ahead of their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Paraguay.
There should be no panic from Joachim Loew either: the performances of Schuerrle, Reus and Schmelzer, in particular, giving him reason to have high expectations for his young squad.