Argentina national football team captain Lionel Messi scored a mesmerising hat-trick against Bolivia in their FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifier to surpass Brazilian legend Pele as the highest-scoring South American male player in football history.
The 34-year-old bagged his 55th career hat-trick to lead Argentina to a convincing 3-0 win over Bolivia at the El Monumental in Buenos Aires. Messi now has seven hat-tricks for La Albiceleste.
Messi’s triple strike took his tally to 79 goals, breaking three-time World Cup winner Pele’s long-standing record of 77 goals.
🇦🇷 Hat-trick hero Lionel Messi (79 goals) celebrates the goal that saw him pass Pele (77) for most goals by a South American player in men's international football 👏@Argentina | #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/Y41GU62mGh— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) September 10, 2021
Interestingly, the Paris Saint-Germain forward is third in the top international goal-scorers list (including both men and women) in South American football history only behind Brazil women’s football team duo Marta (109) and Cristiane (96).
Messi’s biggest rival Cristiano Ronaldo currently holds the record for the most goals in international football. Portugal captain Ronaldo has netted 111 goals in 180 matches, surpassing former Iran center-forward Ali Daei’s 15-year record of 109 international goals.
The former Barcelona star played a pivotal role in Argentina’s Copa America 2021 triumph, as they defeated arch-rivals Brazil 1-0 to win their first major trophy in 28 years. This also helped the six-time Ballon d'Or winner end his drought for international silverware, which eluded him in his stellar footballing career.
“I dreamed about this. Finally, it's been given to me. After so much waiting. There is no better place to celebrate it than here. My mother and brothers are here tonight, they suffered a lot and today they celebrate. I am so happy," Messi said after their 3-0 win against Bolivia.
Since making his international debut against Hungary in 2005, Messi has made 153 appearances for the national side - making him the most capped Argentina player in history.
Featured photo: Twitter/Selección Argentina