Football

Copa America: Lionel Messi sets new record as Argentina trump Bolivia

Lionel Messi scored twice on his 148th international appearance for Argentina in their 4-1 win over Bolivia. Sebastião Moreira-EPA

Argentina skipper Lionel Messi became Argentina’s most capped player, earning his 148th match appearance as Argentina trumped Bolivia 4-1 on Tuesday in the Copa América final group-stage game.

In the Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá, where the match was played, 34-year-old Messi reached the milestone with style, scoring two goals and assisting one.

The PUNCH reported on June 22 that Messi has tied previous record-holder, Javier Mascherano, at 147 matches following the game against Paraguay. Tuesday’s game against Bolivia now puts the Barça man ahead of Mascherano and the likes of Javier Zanetti (147), Roberto Ayala (114), and Diego Maradona (91).

Messi’s new record was not the only highlight of the game, as Argentina were in fine form, ending the game with 68% ball possession and managing 14 shots on target.

For Argentina’s first goal, Messi received the ball at the edge of the box and played a delightful chipped pass for Alejandro Gomez, who busted the net with a thumping volley in the 6th minute, scoring his second game of the competition.

Argentina won a penalty after Gomez was fouled by Bejarano in the 31st minute, and La Albiceleste captain Messi stepped up to make it 2-nil.

Messi again found the back of the net just before half-time after receiving a pass from Sergio Aguero that put him through one-on-one with Bolivia’s goalie. Messi deftly lobbed the ball over Bolivia’s Lambe, bringing the game to 3-0. The Argentine skipper now has 3 goals and 2 assists in Copa América 2021.

Bolivia managed a consolation goal in the 60th minute after Leonel Justiniano made a surging run down the right flank and whipped in a low cross, which Erwin Saavedra converted with a one-touch finish. This is Justiniano’s second goal of Copa America 2021 and he is Bolivia’s only goal-scorer of the tournament.

Coach Scaloni made two changes to the Argentine side, taking off Aguero for Lautaro Martinez, and Giovani Lo Celso for Correa. 23-year-old Martinez soon got on the score-sheet, in the 65th minute and only two minutes after he was introduced to the game. This tied the game at 4-1 until the final blast of the whistle.

The result sees Argentina remain on top of Group A with 10 points from four games, while Uruguay beat Paraguay to finish second with seven points. Paraguay is third with six, while Chile secured five points to earn a spot in the quarterfinal. Bolivia ends its campaign on zero points and is now out of the competition.

Argentina will face Ecuador on Sunday in the quarterfinals to be played at Estádio Olímpico Pedro Ludovico in Goiânia, Brazil.

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