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Lionel Messi breaks Pele’s South American goalscoring record in Argentina’s win over Bolivia in World Cup qualifying

Lionel Messi breaks Pele's South American goalscoring record in Argentina's win over Bolivia in World Cup qualifying

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Lionel Messi ticked off another record by moving past Pele’s South American goalscoring figure in Argentina’s win over Bolivia in World Cup qualifying.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar, who shrugged off a bad challenge in Argentina’s win over Venezuela, scored all three goals in the win in World Cup qualifying.

The hat-trick moved Messi on to 79 international goals, eclipsing Pele’s mark of 77. Only Brazilian greats Marta (109) and Cristiane (96) sit above Messi on the continent’s goalscoring charts – with the former Barcelona star now top of the men’s list.

The opening goal took him level with Pele, and was worthy of such a landmark as he nutmegged a Bolivia defender before curling a shot into the top corner from the edge of the box.

The second saw Messi exchange passes before slotting home – with the third a close-range tap-in.

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It was a proud moment for Messi as his family were in attendance at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires – with the 34-year-old also able to celebrate Argentina’s Copa America victory with 20,000 fans in attendance.

“I really wanted to be able to enjoy it,” Messi said.

“I waited a long time for this, I looked for it and I dreamed of it. It’s a unique moment for the way it happened after so much waiting. There was no better way to celebrate this than to be here. My mother, my brothers are in the stands. They suffered a lot and today, they are here celebrating. I’m very happy.”

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The victory kept Argentina firmly on course for World Cup qualification.

They remain unbeaten with 18 points from eight games, but trail CONMEBOL group leaders Brazil by six points.

Brazil enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win over Peru to extend their perfect record in qualifying to eight wins from as many games.

Neymar was the star attraction, as he crafted the opener for Everton Ribeiro and scored the second on a positive night in Sao Lourenco da Mata.

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