Lionel Messi broke Brazil great Pele's South American goal scoring record with a hat-trick that helped Argentina beat Bolivia 3-0 in the World Cup qualifiers on Thursday.
Messi became the best scorer in South American football history The 34-year-old scored 79 goals for Argentina, overtaking Pele's tally of 77.
The Argentine captain opened the way for his team at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires in front of 20,000 lucky fans in the 14th minute. He moved the ball between the legs of a Bolivian defender and shot from outside the penalty area to the right of the goalkeeper Carlos Lampe.
Once again he showed his technique to score the second in the 64th minute. Messi and forward Lautaro Martinez exchanged four quick passes to put the six-time Ballon D'Or winner in a magnificent 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.
Argentina now have 18 points in second place. Bolivia remains in ninth place with six.
Brazil and Argentina will have one less competitive match after this international window since the Super Classic was suspended on Sunday. FIFA has yet to decide what will happen will the match, as it was stopped in a shocking way after Brazilian health officials tried to remove four Argentinian players for allegedly providing false information to authorities.
The top four teams from the South American qualifiers earn direct spots in the World Cup finals in Qatar next year, and the fifth-place team will go into an intercontinental playoff.
Previously, Uruguay beat Ecuador by 1-0 to move to third place in the table.
Uruguay managed to get a last-minute home win against Ecuador, which was key to their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup. The header by Gaston Pereiro in stoppage time allowed Uruguay to add 15 points and take Ecuador third on the table. The Ecuadorians still with 13 points, are in fourth place and they are also well positioned to go to Qatar next year.
Colombia also clinched an important 3-1 home win over Chile in a magnificent performance from forward Miguel Borja. He scored the first from the spot in the 19th minute and added another one minute later. Chile reduced the gap in the 56th minute with Jean Menezes, but Luis Diaz added Colombia's last goal in the 74th minute.
Also on Thursday, Paraguay beat Venezuela 2-1. The hosts scored with David Martínez and Alejandro Romero in the 7th and 46th minutes. The visitors scored their only goal in the 90th minute with John Chancellor.
He posted on social media after the game: "I dreamed a lot about this day and thank God it came.
"I have no words to thank you for all the love received. What a beautiful night, I really enjoyed it. Unforgettable."
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