BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to give Argentina a 3-0 win over Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday, lifting him above Pele as South America’s top international scorer with 79 goals.
Messi got the opener after 14 minutes in Buenos Aires, dancing around the Bolivian defense before curling the ball into the net from just outside the box.
He made it 2-0 in the 64th minute after working a one-two with Lautaro Martinez and displaying superb footwork in a packed penalty box, then completed the hat-trick with two minutes left, crashing home a rebound from close range.
His 77th, 78th and 79th goals marked his seventh hat-trick for the national side and took him two above Pele in the South American scoring charts.
“I was really anxious, and I really wanted to enjoy it,” Messi said. “I’ve waited a long time for this, I went for it, and I dreamt about it. It’s a unique moment for the way it came about, after waiting so long.”
On a night when Argentine fans were allowed to watch their national team for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Messi broke down in tears as he lifted the Copa America trophy at the Monumental stadium.