BUENOS AIRES — With his bleak start in Argentina nothing but a distant memory, Lionel Messi became his country’s most capped player on Monday in his 4-1 Copa America victory over Bolivia.
Eternal contender for the ‘greatest of all time’ debate, Messi marked the occasion in style with a virtuoso performance, scoring twice and setting another in his 148th national team appearance, surpassing Javier’s record Mascherano.
It was a far cry from his debut in 2005, when he was sent off after just 43 seconds.
Arriving on the pitch as a second-half substitute in a friendly against Hungary in Budapest, the then-18-year-old was given a red card for throwing an arm in the face of an opponent.
Argentina’s top scorer, Messi’s 74th and 75th international goals helped extend the team’s unbeaten streak to 17 games on Monday and booked a quarter-final draw against Ecuador on Saturday.
Argentina haven’t won a major title since winning the Copa America in 1993 and Messi, who won all the honors available to him at Barcelona, is desperate for some success in a blue and white shirt. .
“I was lucky enough to win everything at club and individual level and it would be as well to win something with the national team,” said the 34-year-old on the eve of this year’s Copa . “This is my dream.”
– FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) June 28, 2021
His Spanish club were among those who sent their congratulations on his performance record on Monday: “A true legend, Leo! Congratulations.”
Messi has made three Copa America finals, as well as the 2014 World Cup final, which Argentina all lost. However, they are in good shape for the last eight in the Copa and have been unbeaten since 2019.
They will then face Ecuador in Goiania on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals.
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