Lionel Messi has broken Pele’s record for most international goals scored by a South American, after netting all three goals in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Bolivia.
Messi went into the game just one behind Pele’s tally of 77 and his fine hat trick moved him onto a record-breaking 79 strikes.
La Pulga opened the scoring inside 14 minutes, skipping past a crowd of players before bending an unstoppable effort into the top corner. Messi was on form throughout the contest and grabbed his second goal just after the hour mark.
Showing lightning quick feet in the box, he evaded a sliding tackled and then finished calmly. This ensured the record was his but he did not rest on his laurels, scoring again two minutes from time to seal a memorable hat trick.
It was already an emotional occasion for Messi as it was the first time Argentina were able to celebrate this summer’s Copa America victory in front of a significant amount of their own match-going fans. His record-breaking hat trick gave the event extra significance and after the game he was pictured in tears, while toasting the supporters.
The Bolivia victory capped off a turbulent international break for Argentina. Their last game against fierce rivals Brazil was dominated by a dispute over four Premier League squad members – Emiliano Martinez, Emiliano Buendia, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso – failing to quarantine.
In unprecedented scenes, Brazilian health officials invaded the pitch early in the first half and attempted to detain the England-based foursome. The story is far from over too.
Although the four players avoided deportation, FIFA is investigating the match. Also, Premier League clubs who did not release their players for the fixture, such as Manchester City and Liverpool, are set to be hit with suspensions. Ederson, Alisson and Gabriel Jesus are among those who would be banned.