Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni believes superstar captain Lionel Messi is thriving in the current national team environment with the 2021 Copa America champions.

Messi has been criticised in the past for his performances for Argentina, which have paled in comparison to his club output, dominating with Barcelona up until 2021 having won a club-record 35 trophies and become the LaLiga giants' all-time leading goalscorer.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner led Argentina to their first piece of silverware in 28 years after La Albiceleste dethroned rivals Brazil in July's Copa America final, while Scaloni's side are well on their way to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, unbeaten across 10 matches.

"It is very difficult that [Messi] has not performed with the national team," Scaloni told a news conference ahead of Thursday's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier with Peru.

"There will be moments and team moments and I think that's the most important thing in the end."

Paris Saint-Germain's Messi – who eclipsed Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation during the previous international break – scored his 80th international goal was as Argentina eased past Uruguay 3-0 on Sunday.

"The team is the one that takes the situation forward, the one that makes him even better," Scaloni added. "I think he is good in the team and comfortable with his team-mates. All of this makes it even better.

"It is clear that without the team his performance is not so reflected. Today we are doing well as a group, as a team and that is what is most important."

Scaloni also welcomed Sergio Aguero closing in on a return to fitness, having featured in a Barcelona training match on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old, who was part of Argentina's Copa success, has not played for Barcelona since his off-season move from Premier League champions Manchester City due to a calf injury.

Argentina – second in the qualifying standing – have only netted 18 goals in 10 qualifiers with Aguero potentially boosting their attacking options for November's scheduled games against Uruguay and Brazil.

"The case for him, as with the other boys who have not been able to play, the most important thing is that they compete in their club and make things difficult for us," Scaloni said.

"We have a team of enormous hierarchy, a team of great forwards and the final decision is the most difficult. What interests us is that they play for their club, that they perform well and we will have time to make the decision.

"Logically, we like them to play and that they are in continuity and we expect that from the boys who are not there."

Lionel Messi believes Argentina are continuing to improve on the back of their Copa America success, but the superstar forward was grateful to Emiliano Martinez for helping his side to victory against Uruguay.

Argentina's all-time leading scorer Messi was on the scoresheet alongside Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez as the Albiceleste secured a 3-0 win in Sunday's World Cup qualifier to move within six points of group leaders Brazil.

Lionel Scaloni's men are now unbeaten in 24 games in all competitions, a run that includes a 1-0 win over Brazil in July's Copa America final and 10 games without defeat in their qualifying campaign on the road to Qatar 2022.

However, it may have been a different story against Uruguay had Emiliano Martinez not produced two big saves to keep out Luis Suarez with the game all square, the Aston Villa man going on to make six stops in total at El Monumental.

And Messi singled out the goalkeeper for particular praise after his side returned to winning ways on the back of Thursday's goalless draw with Paraguay.

"He is fundamental for us," Messi said. "When the pressure is on, he always responds. He did that again today. We know we have one of the best goalkeepers in the world and we are making the most of it. 

"Uruguay had clear opportunities to score, even though we were in control. That's the sort of team they are. They are able to create danger out of nothing."

 

Argentina are now unbeaten at home under Scaloni in seven games in all competitions and have yet to lose at home to Uruguay in World Cup qualifying in six matches, winning the last five of those.

They are on the verge of booking a place at Qatar 2022 and Messi, whose six goals is level with Neymar and behind Bolivia's Moreno Martinez (eight) in the CONMEBOL top-scorers chart, is pleased with the strides being taken by his side.

"I think we are improving a lot in terms of the way we are playing and the way we are keeping possession," he said. 

"We knew the results of the other qualifiers and that we needed to take six points from our next two home games. The fans here are great and it is beautiful to play here."

Argentina conclude their triple-header of October qualifiers with a home match against Peru on Thursday, before travelling to Uruguay on their return to action next month.

Lionel Messi added to his record international tally as Argentina eased past rivals Uruguay 3-0 in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

Messi – who eclipsed Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation during the previous international break – scored his 80th goal in an Argentina jersey on Sunday.

Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer saw his attempted outside-of-the-boot pass find the back of the net in the 38th minute before Rodrigo de Paul doubled the lead six minutes later, while Lautaro Martinez sealed the victory in the 62nd minute.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina remain unbeaten through 10 qualifiers on the road to Qatar 2022 – six points behind leaders Brazil as they extended their undefeated run to 24 games across all competitions.

Uruguay entered the match without a win against Argentina since 2013, while La Albiceleste had never lost a home World Cup qualifier to La Celeste amid a run of five consecutive victories.

But Uruguay made a bright start in Buenos Aires, where talisman Luis Suarez was in the thick of the action.

Suarez and Uruguay were unfortunate to not score at least twice in the first half, with Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez proving an unbeatable object.

Martinez thwarted Suarez twice with two big saves, while the latter saw his acrobatic volley cannon off the post on the half-hour mark.

Argentina went close to breaking the deadlock in the 33rd minute following a swift counter-attack, however, Giovani Lo Celso's effort struck the crossbar.

The opener did come via Messi, albeit in fortuitous circumstances, after his attempted pass ended up in the back of the net seven minutes prior to half-time.

Argentina took a 2-0 lead into the interval when De Paul tucked away a rebound a minute before the break.

Uruguay introduced Edinson Cavani and Darwin Nunez at half-time in attempt to spark a comeback but Argentina could not be stopped as space opened up.

Lautaro Martinez – back in the starting line-up – made it 3-0 just past the hour after finding himself unmarked at the back post following De Paul's low ball across the six-yard box.

Argentina almost had a fourth with 22 minutes remaining, however, Fernando Muslera got down well to save Joaquin Correa's close-range shot and the Uruguay goalkeeper was on hand again to thwart Angel Di Maria six minutes later.

What does it mean? No stopping Scaloni's men

Bouncing back from their goalless draw away to Paraguay last time out, Copa America champions Argentina have not lost since 2019.

Magical Messi

Even when Messi assists, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner scores. He has scored four goals in his last three games for Argentina. Messi now has six goals during this World Cup qualifying campaign, level with Brazil's Neymar and two behind leading scorer Moreno Martinez of Bolivia.

Uruguay's drought continues

Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay are still searching for their first World Cup qualifying win away to Argentina. Despite boasting Suarez, Cavani and Nunez, Uruguay have now failed to score in back-to-back games while they have only managed one from their past three. In total, Uruguay have scored 13 goals and conceded as many on the roar to Qatar 2022.

What's next?

Argentina will conclude this international window with the visit of Peru on Thursday as Uruguay travel to Brazil on the same day.

Brazil's 100 per cent record in qualifying for the 2022 World Cup was finally ended on Sunday as they were held to an underwhelming 0-0 draw away to Colombia.

Tite's men had won all of their first nine matches in the qualification group before coming unstuck in what was a bruising, albeit disappointing, contest in Barranquilla.

Both sides created chances during an even first half, but the finishing was of a low standard as the score remained goalless at the interval.

Even fewer clear-cut opportunities were created after the break

Yerry Mina wasted a glorious chance to give Colombia an early lead when heading just off target, though they had a lucky escape of their own soon after when Lucas Paqueta prodded agonisingly wide from Neymar's throughball.

Brazil's captain played a key role again just after the half-hour mark as he teed up Fred on the edge of the box, but the Manchester United midfielder's subsequent shot was dreadful.

The match became especially scrappy in the second half, with neither goalkeeper called into meaningful action again until the 68th minute when Allison had to push Juan Quintero's 30-yard effort away.

That attempt came as the hosts looked to up the ante in the final half-hour, but some substitutions provided a response from Brazil, with Raphinha and Paqueta both wasting reasonable chances.

Raphinha threatened again five minutes from time as his wonderful cross picked out fellow substitute Antony, and David Ospina produced a decisive save to deny the Ajax talent the winning goal.


What does it mean? Selecao still in control

Thankfully for Tite and Brazil, their excellent form in qualification prior to Sunday has bought them plenty of room for error – even if Argentina win their game in hand, the Selecao will still be six points clear at the top.

Tite might be a little concerned by the creative lull his team experienced for the middle third of the match, though the options he brought on from the bench were proof of that not being a squad-wide issue as Brazil finished the game well.
 
Raphinha sparkles off the bench

After being brought on for the anonymous Gabriel Barbosa just after the hour, Leeds United winger Raphinha was a real nuisance. He completed two of his three dribbles, picked out a wonderful cross for Antony and had more touches in the opposition's box than every other player, highlighting the positivity he brought. Tite might be wise to start him next time.
 
Quintero unable to brew anything special for Los Cafeteros

With James Rodriguez absent, Quintero was the creator Colombia looked to. While he was not exactly quiet, given his six shots was the most of anyone on the pitch, they were all hopeful – and unsuccessful – efforts from distance. That may have been less frustrating if he had been a creative influence as well, but he did not play a single key pass.
 
What's next?

Both teams still have one more match left of this international window. Brazil host Uruguay on Thursday, while Colombia are at home to Ecuador.

Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa scored an 85th-minute penalty as Brazil came from behind to preserve their perfect CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying record with a late 3-1 win at Venezuela.

The Selecao had never lost in 17 previous World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela (W16 D1) – the most Brazil had faced an opponent without defeat – but the South American giants found themselves sensationally trailing at half-time on Thursday.

Eric Ramirez's first international goal had bottom outfit Venezuela dreaming of the unlikeliest of wins in the 11th minute, but Marquinhos equalised in the 71st minute in Caracas.

Gabigol was fouled with five minutes remaining and converted his own spot-kick to guide CONMEBOL leaders Brazil to their ninth win in nine qualifiers on the road to Qatar 2022, with Antony adding a third goal in the 96th minute.

Brazil made a bright start away to lowly Venezuela, as Gabigol saw effort flash just wide of the post in the seventh minute.

Against the run of play four minutes later, Venezuela claimed a surprise lead thanks to Ramirez.

Yeferson Soteldo charged down the wing and delivered an inch-perfect cross to Ramirez, who made no mistake as he guided his header past Alisson and into the bottom corner of the net.

Ramirez's goal ended Brazil's sequence of six consecutive clean sheets in World Cup qualifying – the longest of any team in the history of the CONMEBOL tournament.

Brazil continued to control proceedings but had nothing to show for it after Everton Ribeiro's shot deflected onto the crossbar in the 22nd minute, evading his team-mates for a tap-in.

Venezuela made it to half-time without conceding but Brazil put the ball in the back of the net 11 minutes into second half.

Fortunately for Venezuela, Thiago Silva's headed goal for Brazil was disallowed due to offside, much to the disappointment of the Selecao.

Venezuela continued to take the game to Brazil as the contest opened up, with the visitors chasing an equaliser, and they did restore parity via Marquinhos' towering header 19 minutes from the end.

Brazil broke Venezuela's hearts during the closing stages after Gabigol – who was tackled from behind as he tried to pounce on Vinicius Junior's rebound – coolly scored from the spot before Antony made it 3-1 with the last kick of the game.

 

What does it mean? No stopping Brazil after scare

Brazil were facing the very real prospect of their first ever qualifying loss to Venezuela before Marquinhos and Gabigol. With it, Brazil extended their unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers to 26 matches, dating back to 2015.

Gabigol steps up late

Time after time, Gabigol has showed his quality for Brazilian giants Flamengo. Now, the former Inter forward is performing on the international stage. Gabigol scored his third international goal and first since the 2016 Copa America.

So close but yet so far

Venezuela threatened a boilover on home soil, but the minnows instead were left licking their wounds following a fifth consecutive defeat. Venezuela are winless in 10 matches across all competitions and are bottom of the CONMEBOL standings.

What's next?

Brazil will make the trip to Colombia on Sunday as Venezuela host Ecuador on the same day.

Lionel Messi's Argentina were frustrated in a goalless draw away to Paraguay in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

Argentina had their chances against Paraguay in Asuncion, but the Copa America champions could not find the breakthrough on Thursday.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina, though, remain unbeaten in second position after nine matchdays on the road to Qatar 2022 and undefeated across 23 games across all competitions.

Messi was entering the contest on the back of his record-breaking exploits during the last international break after surpassing Brazil great Pele (77) as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation with his hat-trick against Bolivia.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar looked lively away to Paraguay, creating a great opportunity for Argentina to break the deadlock in the 11th minute.

Messi, who had received 437 passes in CONMEBOL qualifying – the most by any player in the campaign – weaved his way past defenders and slid a ball through to Lautaro Martinez, whose goal-bound effort was somehow cleared off the line by a scrambling Omar Alderete ahead of Angel Di Maria.

Argentina were largely in control in the opening half, though Paraguay had some moments in the attacking third.

Another chance went begging for Argentina within five minutes of the second half getting underway, Rodrigo de Paul's ball across the six-yard box somehow evading his team-mates.

Paraguay almost took a surprise lead four minutes later after Miguel Almiron's turn of pace created an opening, but Emiliano Martinez was up to the task to deny the Newcastle United star.

Di Maria picked out Joaquin Correa at the back post on the hour mark, however, some desperate defending blocked the Argentina forward's goal-bound header.

Martinez was kept rather busy in the second half, but the in-form goalkeeper continued to thwart Paraguay, who were searching for their first home World Cup qualifying win against Argentina since 2009.

Antony Silva produced a fabulous sequence to deny Argentina during the closing stages, first dealing with Guido Rodriguez's header before pushing Papu Gomez's long-range effort onto the crossbar seven minutes from the end, while Carlos Gonzalez almost snatched victory for Paraguay in the 88th minute.

 

What does it mean? Unbeaten run continues

While Argentina were unable to secure maximum points, the South American champions have not tasted defeat since 2019.

Goalkeepers flex muscles

It was a showdown between two goalkeepers at the top of their game. Martinez came up big for Argentina in the second half, while Paraguay counterpart Silva was not to be overshadowed in a strong display.

Paraguay struggling for home form

While Paraguay would have probably taken a point before the match, their home woes continue. Paraguay have only won one of their past eight World Cup qualifiers on home soil, dating back to March 2017.

What's next?

Argentina are back in action for the visit of Uruguay on Monday, while Paraguay are away to Chile on the same day.

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni said superstar captain Lionel Messi is clear to face Paraguay in La Albiceleste's CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier.

Messi missed two matches due to a knee injury before returning for Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League win over Manchester City and last week's shock Ligue 1 loss at Rennes.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is away on international duty with Argentina, who will visit Paraguay on Thursday, and Messi has been given the all-clear to play.

"Messi trained with us yesterday [Tuesday] without any problems and this morning too, so he's fine to play," Scaloni told reporters on Wednesday.

"Which is the most important thing and he's like the rest of the group, wanting to get together and do the best for the national team. Regarding his injury, it is evident that he has played two games before coming here and this is fine."

During the last international break, Messi surpassed Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading goalscorer for a South American nation.

Messi scored a hat-trick for Copa America champions Argentina in their 3-0 qualifying win over Bolivia last month, the 34-year-old taking his tally to 79 international goals.

Argentina – second behind Brazil in the standings – 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.

"The challenge that we have, or that I have in this case as a coach, is that the team competes in all the games and, that the things that I know that are done well, do it again or strengthen them and that they can be improved and tried in training even if they are few, and try to put a lot of emphasis on that," Scaloni said.

"We believe that in a collective level the national team has a fairly regular performance and I think that at an individual level it is evident that we have players who decide matches, but in a collective level I think that we have improved a lot in that and that one of the things in which the team does is give the feeling that that is always why, because we work as a team and because whoever enters or leaves knows very well what they have to do and I think that is the most important thing.

"Then there are things to improve on like all teams and even more so that we have very few days together. But our feeling is that as a team we are doing well."

Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala have both been included in Argentina's squad, as well as three Premier League players, for World Cup qualifying fixtures in October. 

Messi has been sidelined with a knee injury of late, forcing him to miss two games for Paris Saint-Germain, but could be set to feature against Manchester City in Champions League action on Tuesday. 

Argentina's captain scored a hat-trick in the 3-0 win over Bolivia back on September 10, though he has yet to register either a goal or assist for new club PSG. 

Dybala was on target for Juventus on Sunday before having to come off in the 22nd minute of his side's 3-2 win over Sampdoria. 

The Serie A club announced on Monday that the 27-year-old will miss both the Champions League clash with Chelsea and also the derby against Torino due to injury, ruling him out of action until after the international break. 

However, Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni has included Dybala in a 30-man squad ahead of upcoming qualifiers against Paraguay, Uruguay and Peru. 

Tottenham duo Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero have also been called up, along with Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez. 

Argentina remains on the red list for countries for the United Kingdom amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with updated government rules on travel declaring any individual entering the UK from such a destination must undertake a 10-day quarantine period.

Villa are due to host Wolves on October 16 when the Premier League season resumes, while Spurs travel to Newcastle United the following day. 

Argentina squad in full:

Franco Armani (River Plate), Juan Musso (Atalanta), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa) Esteban Andrada (Monterrey); Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nahuel Molina (Udinese), Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Lucas Martinez Quarta (Fiorentina), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Lisandro Martinez (Ajax), Nicolas Tagliafico (Ajax), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla); Leandro Paredes (Paris Saint-Germain), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Nicolas Dominguez (Bologna), Giovani Lo Celso (Tottenham), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla); Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Angel Di Maria (Paris Saint-Germain), Lucas Alario (Bayer Leverkusen), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Joaquin Correa (Atletico Madrid), Julian Alarez (River Plate). 

Massimiliano Allegri revealed Juventus will be without their South American contingent, including Paulo Dybala, and the injured Federico Chiesa as they prepare to face Napoli on Saturday.

Dybala, who has been involved in four goals in his last four league games, heads the absentee list, which also includes Rodrigo Bentancur, Danilo, Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro.

Juve have managed just one point from their opening two Serie A games, only once in their history - Allegri's first spell in 2015-16 – have they failed to win any of their opening three matches.

And matters have worsened for the Old Lady as Allegri confirmed on Friday that the visitors will be without their South American players after their late returns from international duty.

"I decided to leave the South Americans at home because they will return too late," Allegri told Friday's pre-match news conference.

"[Juan] Cuadrado was the only one who could have joined the team, but he suffered stomach flu. He hasn't even returned to Italy. He is in still Colombia to undergo some medical examinations.

"This is the situation, I've never complained about the fixture list. Some players finished their international games at 3am last night and would return to Turin at 11am tomorrow morning.

"We don't want to run the risk they pick up injuries, so they will remain in Turin to work, it makes more sense."

Allegri confirmed Chiesa, too, will not be available for selection after the forward suffered a muscular issue with Italy during the international break.

The 54-year-old is without a win in his last seven league games with his new side, with only three Juve managers ever suffering longer winless streaks in Serie A, but asked for patience as his team look to kick-start their season after two poor showings against Udinese and Empoli.

"Napoli are among the candidates to win the title along with another seven or eight clubs, the season is still long and we need to remain balanced," he continued.

"There are many games, the first two matches didn't go as we expected, but this is football, we must keep things simple and start the season because we haven't started yet."

Lionel Messi is leaving behind a legacy for Argentina after surpassing Pele as the all-time leading goalscorer for a South American nation, according to "proud" head coach Lionel Scaloni.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored a hat-trick in Thursday's 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Bolivia to overtake Brazil great Pele as CONMEBOL's top-scoring player.

Messi's 79 goals for Argentina have come in 153 appearances, compared to 77 in 92 caps for Pele, who had held the record since retiring from international duty in 1971.

It is the latest on a long list of records to have been broken by the ex-Barcelona star for club and country, and it comes two months after helping Argentina to win the Copa America.

La Albiceleste paraded the trophy – their first in 28 years – around the pitch at the Monumental at full-time and an emotional Messi broke down in tears.

Scaloni embraced Messi on the field and later hailed the Paris Saint-Germain forward for continuing to prove decisive for his country following his latest treble.

"I am proud to have him as a player. Messi is leaving a legacy to all the soccer players of the national team," Scaloni said at his post-match news conference.

"Messi was always a player who made a difference. Before and now. Winning magnified everything, and if before he was already an idol of the people, now it is much more. 

"Seeing them excited fills us with joy, but it lasts [only] until this international window is over, because afterwards we have to continue working."

 

Messi's hat-trick was his seventh for Argentina but his first on home soil and it helped extend his country's unbeaten run to 22 matches in a run stretching back to July 2019.

He is the only Argentina player to have scored multiple hat-tricks in World Cup qualifying.

Scaloni's men are second in the 10-team qualifying group, six points behind Brazil, whom they still have to face after last week's high-profile clash was controversially suspended.

Argentina also defeated Venezuela 3-1 in the same international window and Scaloni is pleased with what he has seen over the past week.

"I think we have a line of work from day one and we have grown," he said. "We've improved and corrected things even when we've won.

"This team has sacrifice, humility and an ability to unbalance other players in one-on-one situations."

Neymar complained he does not get the respect he deserves after breaking another record to help Brazil remain perfect in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward scored a tap-in having earlier set up Everton Ribeiro as Brazil saw off Peru 2-0 in Recife on Thursday.

That was the Selecao's eighth win from eight matches on the road to Qatar 2022 and ninth qualifying victory in a row overall, which equalled the longest streak in CONMEBOL history.

Neymar's strike saw him overtake Romario and Zico as Brazil's highest scorer in World Cup qualifiers on 12 goals, half of those coming in the current campaign.

He is also now just eight behind legendary forward Pele's all-time record of 77 goals for Brazil, scoring his 69 goals in 113 appearances.

But after coming in for more criticism following Brazil's 1-0 win over Chile last week, with some suggesting he was overweight, Neymar has hit back at his critics.

"Obviously, the team is the most important," he told TV Globo. 

"I'm very happy to be the top scorer in the qualifiers, have the most assists for the national team and soon, if all goes well, it will be an honour to pass Pele as the all-time scorer.

"I don't know anymore what I have to do for people to respect me. This is normal, it's been a long time. Reporters, commentators, others too.

"Sometimes I don't even like to talk in interviews anymore, but at an important moment I come to show up. I leave it to the guys to think a little bit."

 

With their latest victory, Brazil are the first South American team in qualifying history to keep nine consecutive clean sheets at home.

Tite's men remain six points clear of second-placed Argentina, who beat Bolivia 3-0 thanks to a Lionel Messi hat-trick, and are on the verge of sealing a spot at Qatar 2022.

"It's another good result and our winning sequence continues but we haven't mathematically qualified yet," Casemiro added. 

"We have to continue to work hard but we know that we're on the right track."

Brazil, whose high-profile match with Argentina last Sunday was farcically suspended early in the game, return to action in early October with a trip to bottom side Venezuela.

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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