Lionel Messi produced a masterclass with two goals and an assist as he made history in Argentina's 4-1 victory over Bolivia at the Copa America. Messi became Argentina's all-time record appearances holder after surpassing former team-mate Javier Mascherano with his 148th international cap in Cuiaba on Monday.
On the field, Messi was in magical form as he scored twice to take his international tally to 75 while creating the opener in a devastating first-half display in Argentina's final Group A fixture.
Messi somehow scooped the ball to Alejandro Gomez, who finished on the volley in the sixth minute, before the six-time Ballon d'Or winner stepped up to covert a 33rd-minute penalty and then beat Carlos Lampe with a superb lob nine minutes later.
Erwin Saavedra pulled a goal back for Bolivia in the 60th minute but Lautaro Martinez came off the bench and restored the three-goal advantage minutes later as Argentina sealed top spot to set up a quarter-final showdown against Ecuador.
Argentina were in control against a Bolivia team already eliminated, forcing a superb double-save from goalkeeper Lampe, who showed amazing agility to thwart Sergio Aguero and Angel Correa in the third minute.
Messi took centre stage as Argentina broke the deadlock – the superstar captain providing a highlight moment with a memorable assist as he had his back towards goal while teeing up in-form team-mate Gomez.
Bolivia's Diego Bejarano was penalised for a foul on Gomez inside the box after the half-hour mark and Messi made no mistake with the spot-kick.
After Franco Armani was called into action following a long-range effort from Jeyson Chura, Messi put Argentina 3-0 ahead courtesy of a perfectly chipped shot over Lampe prior to the interval, having been played through by Aguero.
Some complacency crept into Argentina's game in the second half and it was punished by Bolivia on the hour mark after Saavedra finished clinically into the roof of the net following Leonel Justiniano's driving run to the byline.
Martinez was only on the pitch for two minutes when he netted Argentina's fourth goal in the 65th minute and the merciless South American powerhouse should have had more, if not for the efforts of Lampe during the closing stages.
What does it mean? Messi at it again
On a record-breaking night, it was in the stars for Messi, who was in devastating form against Bolivia. Already Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer, Messi improved his career Copa tally to 12 goals as Lionel Scaloni's men extended their unbeaten run to 17 matches – the joint-third longest undefeated sequence in the country's history.
It was Messi's first brace for Argentina in 18 games, dating back to August 2019. The 34-year-old also recorded his second two-goal outing in a Copa fixture.
Timely boost for Lautaro
After a strong start to his Argentina career, Inter star Martinez had struggled for goals and form. But he was back among the goals for the first time since November in a boost ahead of the quarter-finals.
Bolivia lose fourth straight
In a campaign hampered by coronavirus issues, Bolivia farewelled the tournament following a fourth consecutive defeat. However, Lampe was a shining light for the country against Argentina and throughout, keeping the scoreline relatively respectable.
Argentina will face Ecuador in Goiania on Saturday as Bolivia turn their attention to the September 1 World Cup qualifier against Colombia.