Argentina's Lionel Messi breaks Brazil legend Pele's South American men's goals record

Gustavo Hofman, ESPN Argentina, joins the Gab and Juls to discuss the current situation between Brazil and Argentina. (1:20).
What made Brazil and Argentina believe they could play? (1:20).

Lionel Messi scored his 79th international career goal in Argentina. This surpasses the South American men’s record held by Pele.

Messi scored all three goals for Argentina's 3-0 win against Bolivia on Thursday. This was in a World Cup qualifying match at Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires. He now has two more goals than Pele (77 career goals) in international play.

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For the record, Messi is trailed by Brazilian duo Marta (109) and Cristiane (96) for the total number of goals scored at international level by any South American player.

How the World Cup qualifiers work around the world

The men's third spot is occupied by Messi's Paris Saint-Germain colleague Neymar, who has scored 69 goals for Brazil.

"I was nervous. I just wanted to have fun. "I waited a while for this," Messi, an emotional Messi, said after the match. "We won the game that was most important and now we can celebrate."

Pele, a three-time World Cup champion, remains hospitalized after he had surgery to remove a tumor from his colon. However, the 80-year old said that the operation was a great victory.

Messi, 34 years old, had an unforgettable summer. He switched clubs from Barcelona to PSG, and won his first senior international football title. In a 1-0 win at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium, Messi and La Albiceleste won the Copa America from Brazil.

Messi and his team danced after Thursday's results. They then presented the Copa trophy for 21,000 supporters.

Messi stated, "It was an exceptional moment [to win Copa America] because it was where and how we got the title."

It was a great way to do it. To be able to celebrate the title, it's amazing. My mother and my brothers are there. They've suffered a lot... They have suffered a lot... I'm very happy."

The game was also played days after Argentina's World Cup qualifying match against Brazil, which was controversially suspended, took place. Four Argentina players were accused by Brazilian health officials of not following Brazil's COVID-19 protocol for entry to the country.

Pele has been outscored by Lionel Messi in the international goals scoring table. JUAN IGNACIO RONCORONI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

After his hat trick against Bolivia, Messi has scored 26 goals in World Cup qualifying matches. He also surpasses Uruguayan star Luis Suarez (his former teammate at Barcelona) for the most CONMEBOL players.

It is Messi's highest number of goals against an opponent in a single game, with eight goals against Bolivia.

Messi is also the country's most prolific scorer. He has surpassed Gabriel Batistuta (54 goal) in 2016. Argentina's most-capped player is Messi, and Thursday's match against Bolivia marked his 153rd international appearance.

Before the Copa America win, Messi had lost four finals against Argentina's senior team. They lost to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final, and they had also lost at Copa America in 2015 and 2016.

He was the winner of the 2005 under-20 World Cup and a 2008 Olympic gold medal with Argentina's Under23s.

After two decades of service with Barcelona, Messi moved to PSG this summer as a shock-free agent. Messi was with Barcelona since 2001 and had joined the academy in the previous year.

Messi appeared in 778 games for Barcelona, breaking Xavi Hernandez’s appearance record in 2020-21 season. He also scored 672 goals for Barca, which is another club record.