BUENOS AIRES (AP) Argentine star Lionel Messi became the best international goal scorer in the history of South America on Thursday, surpassing Brazil, Pel. The 34-year-old scored all the goals in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Bolivia in the World Cup qualifiers, and now has 79 for the national team.
Both goals at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, in front of about 20,000 fans, were works of art by the six-time Golden Ball winner.
The first came in the 14th minute, with Messi moving the ball between the legs of a Bolivian defender and shooting from outside the area to the right of goalkeeper Carlos Lampe.
The second came in the 64th minute after he and striker Lautaro Martinez amazed the Bolivian defense with a quick exchange of four passes. Messi still had time to dribble a defender before scoring.
Messi completed his hat-trick in the 88th minute from close range after receiving a jump from Lampe.
Messi did not speak for the post-match record, but celebrated by raising the Copa America trophy in front of local fans, who were allowed to take part after a 20-month break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I waited a long time for this, I asked for it, I dreamed about it,” he said.
“There was no better way to celebrate than to be here,” he added. “My mother, my brothers are here in the stands … They suffered a lot and today they are here celebrating. I am very happy.
Messi had a troubled relationship with the national team, with a series of painful losses in the World Cups and the America’s Cup, until he led the team to the continental title against Brazil in July. It was his first major title with Argentina, a team that was in a 28-year-old title drought.
The three-time World Cup winner Pel is currently in hospital due to surgery for a colon tumor.
More AP football: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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