Argentina captain Lionel Messi scored a hat trick against Bolivia on Thursday at the El Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires in the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying match (September 9). With his three goals, Messi surpassed Brazilian legend Pele’s tally of 77 goals to become the top international goal-scorer from South America, with 79 goals to his name.
Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal is the leading international goal-scorer with 111 in 180 matches, but Messi, who recently moved from Barcelona to PSG football club, now has 79 in 155 games to tie Godfrey Chitalu of Zambia for fifth place. Argentina defeated Bolivia 3-0 thanks to Messi’s goals in the 14th, 64th, and 88th minutes.
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
Messi trails Brazilian women’s footballers Marta (109) and Cristiane (96) in the overall record for most international goals scored by a South American player. Messi’s Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar is third on the men’s list, with 68 international goals for Brazil.
Earlier this week, Messi’s much-anticipated match against Neymar’s Brazil was called off due to COVID-19 protocol violations.
Messi also surpasses Uruguayan star Luis Suarez – a former Barcelona teammate – for the most all-time among CONMEBOL players with 26 goals in World Cup qualifying matches.
Messi is also the all-time leading scorer in Argentina, having surpassed Gabriel Batistuta (54 goals) in 2016. He is also Argentina’s most capped player, with his 153rd international appearance coming against Bolivia on Thursday. Messi, 34, won his first senior international football title this summer in a 1-0 win over Brazil at the 2021 Copa America.
Prior to that victory at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana Stadium. Messi had previously lost four major finals with Argentina’s senior team. They were defeated by Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and had previously lost in the Copa America finals in 2007, 2015, and 2016.
Messi sobbed as he lifted the Copa America trophy at the Monumental stadium on a night when Argentine fans were allowed to watch their national team for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Argentina won the Copa America in July, their first major title in 28 years, and Messi celebrated by dancing with his teammates and showing off the trophy to the 21,000 fans in attendance.
“There was no better way to celebrate than to be here,” he explained. “My mother is here, and my siblings are in the audience. They’ve been through a lot, and now they’re here to celebrate. I am overjoyed.”
Argentina is second in the 10-team qualifying group for Qatar in 2022, trailing only Brazil. The top four teams are automatically qualified, and the fifth-placed team advances to an inter-regional playoff.
(with Reuters inputs)