Lionel Messi became the all-time leading goalscorer in CONMEBOL history after his hat-trick guided Argentina past Bolivia 3-0 in World Cup qualifying.
Messi broke Pele’s record as the top-scoring player for a South American nation thanks to his 78th and 79th international goals on Thursday.
The 34-year-old Argentina superstar moved level with Brazil great Pele (77) after opening the scoring in the 14th minute before moving top in the history books with his 64th-minute effort in Buenos Aires, where he completed his hat-trick during the closing stages.
Lionel Scaloni’s second-placed Argentina remain unbeaten on the road to Qatar 2022 with five wins from their eight fixtures, while they extended their undefeated streak to 22 matches across all competitions.
Copa America champions Argentina were back in action after their blockbuster showdown with rivals Brazil was abandoned in chaotic scenes in Sao Paulo on Sunday.
The top-of-the-table fixture was halted following an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations, Argentina naming three Premier League players in their starting line-up – Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham pair Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso.
Lionel #Messi y un nuevo récord: el capitán argentino superó a Pelé como máximo goleador de selecciones sudamericanas.
¡Vamos, Leo! pic.twitter.com/qh4Bpj7QpG
— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) September 10, 2021
Martinez, Romero and Lo Celso were not involved against Bolivia as Argentina looked to continue their dominance, with the South American champions having never lost to La Verde in 15 home games in all competitions (W13, D2).
Argentina were on the front foot from the outset and opened the scoring through their talisman Messi after 15 minutes – the superstar nutmegging his opponent before curling his shot into the net.
Lautaro Martinez thought he had scored 12 minutes later, however, the Argentina forward was ruled offside.
Martinez then wasted a glorious chance in the 39th minute, side-footing a shot just wide of the post after being teed up by Messi following his run into the penalty area.
Argentina had more opportunities to extend their lead prior to half-time, but Messi saw his curling effort sail agonisingly wide of the woodwork, while Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe was fortunate not to concede in the third minute of stoppage time having emerged off his line.
Bolivia spent more time in Argentina’s half in the second period, but never really troubled the home side, who doubled their lead just past the hour-mark.
Messi capped a superb team move, finding the back of the net from close range in the 65th minute as he celebrated history in front of fans, and he ended the night with a three-goal haul after pouncing on a rebound with two minutes of regulation remaining.
What does it mean? Scaloni’s men stay hot
There is no stopping Argentina. In the midst of a 22-game unbeaten run, the South American champions – who ended their 28-year wait for silverware in July – have not lost since 2019.
Messi puts on masterclass
With history in his sights, Messi stole the show with his latest treble. It was his seventh for Argentina but first on home soil.
Bolivia’s drought continues
Bolivia have now gone 16 matches without a win away to Argentina in all competitions. They are winless in their last eight international fixtures.
The next international window will see Argentina visit Paraguay on October 6, while Bolivia meet Ecuador on the same day.
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