Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to overtake Pele as the top international goalscorer in South American football history on Thursday as Argentina cruised to a 3-0 victory over Bolivia in their 2022 World Cup qualifier.
Messi pounced for his 77th, 78th and 79th international goals to keep Argentina firmly on course for a place at next year’s finals in Qatar against a Bolivia team languishing near the foot of the table.
The 34-year-old Paris Saint-Germain forward, making his 153rd appearance for Argentina, drew level with Pele’s longstanding mark of 77 goals in the 14th minute.
“I’ve waited a long time for this,” an emotional Messi said afterwards.
“Now I’m going to enjoy it, it’s a unique moment after waiting so long. I am very happy,” he added.
The former Barcelona star’s great rival Cristiano Ronaldo holds the outright record for goals scored in international football with 111 from 180 games.