BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, Sep 10 – Lionel Messi netted a hat-trick to overtake Pelé as the top international scorer in South American football history on Thursday as Argentina claimed a 3-0 victory over Bolivia in their UEFA Cup qualifier. world 2022.
Messi scored his 77th, 78th and 79th international goals to keep Argentina firmly on track for a berth for next year’s final in Qatar against a Bolivian side languishing near the foot of the table.
The 34-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward, making his 153rd appearance for Argentina, equalized Pelé’s longtime mark of 77 goals in the 14th minute, crushing a defender and then curling a sublime shot in front of the keeper Bolivian Carlos Lampe.
The Argentina captain then passed Pelé in the 64th minute with his second of the evening, entering the Bolivian box and playing a one-two with Lautaro Martinez before scoring a finish from close range.
Messi completed the seventh international hat trick of his career with two minutes remaining, burying a rebound at close range after a shot from the edge of the box was parried only by Lampe.
“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said an emotional Messi afterwards.
“Now I’m going to enjoy it, it’s a unique moment after waiting so long. I am very happy, ”he added.
Former Barcelona star’s great rival Cristiano Ronaldo holds the all-time record for goals scored in international football with 111 out of 180 games.
The victory came just four days after Argentina became embroiled in controversy with regional rivals Brazil in Sao Paulo, with the two teams’ qualifying being dropped on Sunday after seven minutes due to controversy over Covid -19.
Brazilian authorities have stopped the game after protesting the involvement of England-based players Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero from Tottenham, and Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia from Aston Villa.
The four players, who have been accused by Brazil of tampering with entry records, played no part in Thursday’s game in Buenos Aires after being released from the squad by the Association. argentina football.
– Brazil remains perfect –
There was no sign of a hangover from controversy among Argentinian players on Thursday, as Messi quickly took center stage to surpass Brazilian great Pelé’s record in style.
With Messi in typically mischievous form, Argentina might have had more goals.
Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, who also had a first-half goal ruled out for offside, should have scored after being set up by Messi with glorious luck in the 39th minute, firing his shot from close range .
Messi could also have scored a second goal in the first half, cleverly bonding with PSG teammate Angel Di Maria before launching a curling shot right next to it. However, the goals eventually came for Messi in the second half as Argentina returned home.
The victory leaves the two-time World Cup winners second in South America’s overall qualifying standings with 18 points in eight games, six points behind the leader of Brazil, who maintained his 100 percent qualifying record. Thursday with a 2-0 victory over Peru in Recife.
Everton Ribeiro and Neymar scored the goals for an understaffed Brazil, missing nine Premier League stars who had been barred from traveling to this week’s playoffs by their clubs due to Covid-19 issues .
Brazil have now won all eight of their qualifying games and have 24 points.
Uruguay moved up to third in the standings with 15 points after an added time winner Gaston Pereiro gave them a 1-0 victory over Ecuador in Montevideo.
Ecuador is fourth with 13 points, tied with Colombia who climbed the standings on Thursday with a convincing 3-1 victory over Chile at Barranquilla.
Paraquay bolstered their qualifying hopes with a 2-1 victory over Venezuela in Asuncion to reach sixth place in the standings with 11 points, two short of the automatic qualifying spots.