The Argentine football forward, Lionel Messi, has become the all-time highest international goalscorer in South American football history after overtaking football legend, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, popularly called Pelé, on the scorers’ chart, following a hat-trick scored during a 2022 World Cup qualifier.
Messi, who recently left Spanish giant, Barcelona, to join France football club, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), scored the three goals against Bolivia to ensure Argentina maintain their second position on the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) qualifiers table after Brazil, the table toppers, led by the argentine’s colleague in PSG, Neymar, ensured that the team thrashes Peru 2-0.
During the game played on Thursday (Friday morning), Messi pounced for his 77th, 78th, and 79th international goals to keep Argentina firmly on course for a place at next year’s finals in Qatar against a Bolivian team languishing near the foot of the table.
The 34-year-old forward, making his 153rd appearance for Argentina, drew level with Pele’s longstanding mark of 77 goals in the 14th minute of the game after nutmegging a defender and then curled a sublime shot past Bolivia goalkeeper, Carlos Lampe.
The Argentina captain then moved one clear of Pele in the 64th minute with his second of the night, surging into the Bolivian box and playing a one-two with Inter Milan striker, Lautaro Martinez, before tucking away a finish from close range.
Messi completed the seventh international hat-trick of his career two minutes from time, burying a rebound from close range after a shot from the edge of the area was only parried by Lampe.
Speaking after the game, the forward, who was emotional after the third goal, described the achievement as unique and showered praises on Pele for setting such a high standard in the continent football.
“I have waited a long time for this. Now I am going to enjoy it. It is a unique moment after waiting so long. I am very happy,” he added.
The achievement came after the Barcelona former star’s great rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently returned to his first club outside Portugal, his home country, Manchester United, holds the outright record for goals scored in international football with 111 from 180 games
The victory came just four days after Argentina’s national team was embroiled in controversy with regional rivals Brazil in Sao Paulo, with the two teams’ qualifier on Sunday abandoned after seven minutes due to a Covid-19 controversy.
Brazilian authorities stopped the game after protesting at the involvement of England-based players Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero of Tottenham, and Aston Villa’s Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia.
All four players, who were accused by Brazil of falsifying entry records to the country, played no part in Thursday’s game in Buenos Aires after being released from the squad by the Argentina Football Association.
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