Argentina players celebrate after scoring a goal against Curacao in a friendly. Getty Images
Argentina continued their post-World Cup celebrations with a runaway 7-0 friendly win over Curacao Tuesday on another memorable night for talisman Lionel Messi.
Messi put on a clinic in the first half, scoring a hat trick to surpass the 100 goals mark for Argentina, with Nicolas Gonzalez and Enzo Fernandez both netting before the break as the rout was well and truly on in Santiago del Estero.
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It was the second match in a row in which Messi surpassed a significant milestone in his illustrious career after hitting the 800-goal mark for club and country in a 2-0 win against Panama on Thursday.
An overmatched Curacao put up a fight for the first 20 minutes, but once Messi scored his first the floodgates opened and Gonzalez headed in Argentina’s second from close range after a scramble in front of Eloy Room’s goal.
The Paris Saint-Germain star soon scored his second and Argentina’s third with a trademark, bending shot from his left foot before setting up teammate Fernandez for a thunderous strike from distance to make it 4-0.
Minutes later, Messi was at it again, running on to a perfectly weighted ball over the top of the Curacao defense from Giovani Lo Celso and rolling his shot past a helpless Room to complete a first-half hat trick.
The hosts seemed content to see out the match at a canter in the second half, but Argentina did add to the score line in the 78th minute with an Angel Di Maria penalty and a close-range strike from Gonzalo Montiel.
The game was followed by tributes from the home crowd for Lionel Scaloni and his 2022 World Cup winners, who will regroup in June for another international break with an eye on the start of CONMEBOL qualifying for the 2026 World Cup in September.
However, the night belonged to Messi, who scored the 100th, 101st and 102nd goals of his international career.
The 35-year-old, who inspired Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar, opened the scoring with a neat finish on his less-favoured right foot.
The legendary forward then made it 3-0 in the 33rd minute with a typically unerring finish on his left foot.
And just three minutes later Messi completed his hat-trick after being played through on goal by Giovani Lo Celso.
Video: Lionel Messi’s hat-trick vs Curacao
You can tell that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is absolutely loving playing for his country right now.
What record did Lionel Messi break vs Curacao?
Messi became the first World Cup winner to score 100 international goals.
The only other two footballers to have scored over 100 international goals are Iran’s Ali Daei (109) and, of course, Portugal icon Cristiano Ronaldo (122).
Will Lionel Messi equal Cristiano Ronaldo’s international goals record?
Messi is currently 20 international goals behind Ronaldo but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he will eventually catch up with his long-term rival.
While most expected Messi to retire after the 2022 World Cup, regardless of the result, it’s clear that the global star wants to continue to lead his country until at least the 2024 Copa America – which takes place in the United States next summer.
There’s even talk that Messi could feature at the 2026 World Cup finals, when he will be 39 years old.
What did Lionel Messi say after Argentina 7-0 Curacao?
Messi took to Instagram after the match, posting the following: “What a nice way to close these dates, impressive today all the people in Santiago del Estero. I wish we can continue to share together many moments like these and that this craziness never ends!!!”
What did Argentina boss Lionel Scaloni say?
Per Yahoo, Scaloni told reporters: “As for Lionel Messi, what I want is for him to be on the pitch and be happy.”
He added: “These days were different to the previous friendlies because the players were allowed to be with their people.
“We felt that they had that desire to go out to contact the outside, although that meant that it was difficult to prepare these two games. But in the end we got them through by playing with intensity.”