Lionel Messi Scores Hat-trick As Argentina Blank Bolivia


Lionel Messi shone once more in South American World Cup qualifiers, leading Argentina with all the goals in its 3-0 home win against Bolivia.

Few expected Argentina not to cruise against ninth-place Bolivia at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, even after the team lost four England-based players for the encounter; goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, defender Cristian Romero, midfielder Giovanni Lo Celso and winger Emiliano Buendia have already returned.

But Messi made all the difference — his hat-trick made him the top international scorer in South American football history.

The 34-year-old has netted 79 for Argentina, overtaking Brazil’s Pelé’s tally of 77.

Messi opened the scoring for Argentina in front of about 20,000 lucky fans in the 14th minute. He moved the ball between a Bolivian defender’s legs and shot from outside the box to the right of goalkeeper Carlos Lampe.

He once more showed style to add the second in the 64th minute. Messi and striker Lautaro Martinez exchanged four quick passes to put the six-time Ballon d’Or winner in great position. He still had time to dribble past one defender before scoring.

Messi completed his hat-trick in the 88th minute from close range after getting a rebound from Lampe.

A tearful Messi also celebrated with fans, who took their seats in an Argentinian stadium for the first time in 20 months due to the pandemic. He carried the Copa America trophy won against Brazil in July, Argentina’s first major title in 28 years.

“Messi is leaving a legacy to all players of the national team,” coach Lionel Scaloni said about the record.

“I am proud to have him as a player.”

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