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Argentina Defeats Bolivia as Messi Surpasses Pele with a Hat-Trick

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Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Argentina defeated Bolivia 3-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Thursday, moving him past Pele as South America's leading international scorer with 79 goals.

Messi opened the scoring in Buenos Aires after 14 minutes, dancing around the Bolivian defense before curling the ball into the net from just outside the box.

He made it 2-0 in the 64th minute after a one-two with Lautaro Martinez and displaying superb footwork in a crowded penalty box, and he completed his hat-trick with two minutes remaining, crashing home a rebound from close range.

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His 77th, 78th, and 79th goals gave him his seventh hat-trick for the national team, putting him two goals ahead of Pele in the South American scoring charts.

“I was really anxious, and I really wanted to enjoy it,” Messi said. “I’ve waited a long time for this, I went for it, and I dreamt about it. It’s a unique moment for the way it came about, after waiting so long.”

Messi sobbed as he lifted the Copa America trophy at the Monumental stadium on a night when Argentine fans were allowed to watch their national team for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Argentina won the Copa America in July, their first major title in 28 years, and Messi celebrated by dancing with his teammates and showing off the trophy to the 21,000 fans in attendance.

“There was no better way to celebrate than by being here,” he said. “My mum is here, my siblings are in the stands. They have suffered so much and they are here celebrating. I am very happy.”

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Argentina is second in the 10-team qualifying group for Qatar in 2022, trailing only Brazil. The top four teams are automatically qualified, and the fifth-placed team advances to an inter-regional playoff.

Earlier in the day, Miguel Borja scored two goals in two minutes to help Colombia beat Chile 3-1 in Barranquilla.

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After 19 minutes, he scored from the penalty spot and then ran through on goal a minute later to slip the ball under the keeper and make it 2-0.

Chile's Jean Meneses equalized in the 56th minute, but Luis Dias restored Colombia's two-goal lead with 16 minutes remaining.

Colombia is fifth in the qualifying table, tied with fourth-placed Ecuador on points, while Chile is eighth.

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Argentina Bolivia Buenos Aires Lionel Messi Messi

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