Copa America 2021: Messi moves past Mascherano to become Argentina's most capped player

Messi scores twice in 4-1 win over Bolivia to set up quarter-final showdown against Ecuador

Lionel Messi scored twice in Argentina's 4-1 Copa America rout of Bolivia on a night he became his country's most capped player.

Messi's double extended his goals record in Argentina colours to 75 on his 148th national team appearance to surpass Javier Mascherano's tally.

It was all a far cry from his debut in 2005 when he was sent off after just 43 seconds.

Coming on the pitch as a second-half substitute in a friendly against Hungary in Budapest, the then 18-year-old was red carded for swinging an arm in an opponent’s face.

Messi's brace helped extend Argentina's unbeaten run to 17 games and booked a quarter-final tie against Ecuador on Saturday.

Argentina have not won a major title since lifting the Copa America in 1993 and Messi, who has won every honour available to him at Barcelona, is desperate for some success in a blue and white shirt.

"I've been lucky enough to win everything at club level and individual level and it would be lovely also to win something with the national side,” the 34-year-old said on the eve of this year’s Copa. “That’s my dream.”

His Spanish club were among those to send their congratulations for his record-breaking achievement on Monday: "A true legend, Leo! Congratulations".

Messi has appeared in three Copa America finals, as well as the 2014 World Cup final, all of which Argentina lost. However, they are in good form going into the last eight of the Copa and are undefeated since 2019.

Bolivia, who had already been eliminated after three defeats in their opening three games, were outclassed from the outset by a rampant Argentina.

The Argentines almost took the lead after three minutes, only for Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe to pull off a remarkable double save from Sergio Aguero and Angel Correa in quick succession.

But Argentina did not have to wait long for the breakthrough, when Messi's delightful chipped pass released Papu Gomez who volleyed past Lampe to make it 1-0 after six minutes.

Argentina doubled their lead on 33 minutes when Gomez was brought down in the area by Bolivia's Diego Bejarano.

Messi duly stepped up to convert the penalty to put Argentina firmly in control.

Bolivia got their first shot on goal shortly afterwards, Jeyson Chura's ferocious long-range effort forcing Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani into a diving save at full stretch.

But Argentina reasserted their dominance and it was Messi who made it 3-0, latching on to a clever lofted pass from new Barcelona team-mate Aguero and lobbing a cheeky finish over the advancing Lampe.

Bolivia pulled a goal back in the 60th minute with a cleverly worked move, Chura's deft back heel releasing Leonel Justiniano down the right flanke who crossed for Erwin Saavedra to score.

Argentina responded swiftly though, substitute Lautaro Martinez tapping in from close range in the 65th minute just two minutes after coming on for Aguero.

Argentina next face Ecuador in Goiania on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals.

In Monday's other Group A game, Uruguay clinched second place in the table after downing Paraguay 1-0 in Rio de Janeiro.

Edinson Cavani's first half spot kick proved decisive for 'La Celeste', sending Uruguay into a quarter-final against Colombia on Saturday.

Paraguay finished third and will now play Peru on Friday. Chile, who finished fourth in Group A, face a daunting task against hosts Brazil on Friday.

EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS