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Lionel Messi was overcome with emotion as he fulfilled a "dream" by eclipsing Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation.

Messi scored a hat-trick as Argentina cruised to a 3-0 victory over Bolivia in Thursday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier and those goals took him past Pele.

His first, a curling effort after a cheeky nutmeg, saw him go level with Pele on 77, before a close-range finish just past the hour saw him set a new record.

He then added another for good measure at the end to complete his hat-trick and reach 79 goals for Argentina on a momentous night at the Monumental.

With La Albiceleste also finally able to celebrate July's Copa America triumph – a first in 28 years – in front of their own supporters at full-time, record-breaker Messi failed to hold back the tears.

"I have dreamed of this for a long time and I thank God it was given to me," he said on the pitch afterwards.

 

"It is a unique moment because of how it happened and after so much waiting.

"There was no better way for it to be and to be able to be here, celebrating, is something incredible.

"My mother and my brothers are up there, they suffered a lot too. I'm very happy."

It was Messi's seventh hat-trick for his country, but his first on home soil and ensured Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 22 matches, a streak that began in 2019.

It was further proof that Argentina are building themselves back up to a standard many associate with the two-time World Cup winners after a poor showing at Russia 2018, a tournament that essentially led to a reset.

Messi's international future at the time was in doubt as he took an extended break from international football – back then, many would have suggested Pele's record looked set to outlast Argentina's talisman.

"I cannot do more than be so happy, for my family who is watching me and for all Argentines," Messi continued.

"I always say individual awards are secondary, because we are here for something else, but the truth is I am very excited."

Neymar scored one and set up another as Brazil maintained their perfect record in CONMEBOL 2022 World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 victory over Peru in Recife on Thursday.

Playing for the first time since Sunday's qualifier against Argentina was controversially suspended mid-game, Selecao netted twice in a lively first half to set up the win.

Brazil's opener came in the 14th minute when Neymar laid off for Everton Ribeiro, who scored the winner in last week's 1-0 triumph in Chile.

Neymar grabbed the second goal five minutes before the break, the Paris Saint-Germain star tapping home from close range as Brazil made it eight wins from eight games on the road to Qatar 2022.

On a night when Argentina's Lionel Messi overtook Pele as the leading goalscorer in South American history with a hat-trick, Neymar's strike took him to 69 for Brazil, moving within eight of the Brazil great.

Both sides had early chances in a lively opening, with Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa having an effort blocked while Gianluca Lapadula shot over for Peru.

Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese made a strong save with his left arm as Gerson broke forward, firing on target on his left.

Brazil broke the deadlock in controversial circumstances after Neymar bundled over Anderson Santamaria and raced down the byline to centre for in-form team-mate Ribeiro to side-foot home – Peru's protests fell on deaf ears.

Lucas Paqueta almost doubled Brazil's advantage with a 34th-minute chance, before Neymar scored Selecao's second goal six minutes later.

Danilo passed for Gabigol, whose cutback fell to Ribeiro. The Flamengo midfielder's shot was blocked into Neymar's path for a point-blank finish.

Peru substitute Gabriel Costa's 72nd-minute cross-cum-shot tested Brazil goalkeeper Everton as the depleted hosts, missing several key players unable who were not released by their Premier League clubs, seemed content with the victory.

Veteran Brazil substitute Hulk rounded Gallese late but blasted wide on his preferred left foot.

Lionel Messi became the all-time leading goalscorer in CONMEBOL history after his hat-trick guided Argentina past Bolivia 3-0 in World Cup qualifying.

Messi broke Pele's record as the top-scoring player for a South American nation thanks to his 78th and 79th international goals on Thursday.

The 34-year-old Argentina superstar moved level with Brazil great Pele (77) after opening the scoring in the 14th minute before moving top in the history books with his 64th-minute effort in Buenos Aires, where he completed his hat-trick during the closing stages.

Lionel Scaloni's second-placed Argentina remain unbeaten on the road to Qatar 2022 with five wins from their eight fixtures, while they extended their undefeated streak to 22 matches across all competitions.

Copa America champions Argentina were back in action after their blockbuster showdown with rivals Brazil was abandoned in chaotic scenes in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

The top-of-the-table fixture was halted following an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations, Argentina naming three Premier League players in their starting line-up – Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham pair Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso.

Martinez, Romero and Lo Celso were not involved against Bolivia as Argentina looked to continue their dominance, with the South American champions having never lost to La Verde in 15 home games in all competitions (W13, D2).

Argentina were on the front foot from the outset and opened the scoring through their talisman Messi after 15 minutes – the superstar nutmegging his opponent before curling his shot into the net.

Lautaro Martinez thought he had scored 12 minutes later, however, the Argentina forward was ruled offside.

Martinez then wasted a glorious chance in the 39th minute, side-footing a shot just wide of the post after being teed up by Messi following his run into the penalty area.

Argentina had more opportunities to extend their lead prior to half-time, but Messi saw his curling effort sail agonisingly wide of the woodwork, while Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe was fortunate not to concede in the third minute of stoppage time having emerged off his line.

Bolivia spent more time in Argentina's half in the second period, but never really troubled the home side, who doubled their lead just past the hour-mark.

Messi capped a superb team move, finding the back of the net from close range in the 65th minute as he celebrated history in front of fans, and he ended the night with a three-goal haul after pouncing on a rebound with two minutes of regulation remaining.

Argentina superstar Lionel Messi created more history, surpassing Pele as the all-time leading goalscorer for a South American nation on Thursday.

Messi scored his 78th international goal for Argentina in their World Cup qualifier against Bolivia, breaking the record held by Brazil great Pele.

A six-time Ballon d'Or winner, Messi had moved level with Pele with his opening goal of the match on Thursday before his brace sent him clear in the record books.

Messi produced a moment of magic in the 14th minute, playing the ball through his opponent's legs before curling a shot past the goalkeeper in Buenos Aires, where the 34-year-old then made history in the 64th minute to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.

Next on the list of leading CONMEBOL scorers after Messi is Pele (77), then Uruguay's Luis Suarez (64), followed by Chile forward Alexis Sanchez (46) and Peru star Paolo Guerrero (38).

It is not the first time Messi has eclipsed Pele, having surpassed the Santos icon with the most goals for an individual club with his 644th in Barcelona colours in December.

It comes after Messi guided Argentina to Copa America glory in July, ending the country's 28-year wait for silverware with his first senior international crown.

 

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