Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick against Bolivia on Thursday to break the record set by Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation.
His first goal of the night, 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.
La Albiceleste were also finally able to celebrate July’s Copa America triumph – a first in 28 years – in front of their own supporters at full-time, and captain 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.