Argentina’s captain Lionel Messi has scored his 79th international career goal surpassing the South American men’s record held by Brazil legend Pele.
Messi scored all three goals in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Bolivia on Thursday in a World Cup qualifying match at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires.
The hattrick gave the PSG forward two more than Pele, who had 77 career goals in international play.
Messi trails Brazilian duo Marta (109) and Cristiane (96) for the overall record for most goals scored by any South American player at the international level.
Third on the men’s list is Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar, who has 69 international goals for Brazil. Speaking after the match, Messi said:
I was very nervous, I just wanted to enjoy the night. I waited a long time for this.
We won the game [and] that was the most important thing and now we can celebrate.
Messi (34), has had a memorable summer -winning his first senior international football title in July.
He and La Albiceleste claimed the Copa America from Brazil in a 1-0 win at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium.
After Thursday’s result, Messi danced with his teammates and showed off the Copa trophy to the 21 000 supporters present.
With 26 goals in World Cup qualifying matches following his hat-trick against Bolivia, Messi also passes Uruguay star Luis Suarez for most among CONMEBOL players.
With eight career goals vs. Bolivia in 11 games, it is Messi’s most against a single opponent while donning the Argentina shirt.
Messi is also his country’s men’s all-time leading scorer, having moved past Gabriel Batistuta (54 goals) in 2016.
He is also Argentina’s most capped player, with Thursday’s match against Bolivia marking his 153rd international appearance.
Prior to the Copa America victory, Messi had lost four major finals with Argentina’s senior side.
They were beaten by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and had lost in the final at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016.
He had won the under-20 World Cup in 2005 and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina’s U23s in 2008.