Lionel Messi, the Argentine superstar, is widely regarded as one of the best footballers of all time.
Messi is Argentina’s all-time leading goalscorer with 73 goals in 147 appearances, and he and former FC Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano have the joint-most international caps for La Albiceleste.
Messi is presently representing Argentina in the ongoing Copa America 2021 in Brazil, where he has one goal and one assist in the first three games of the group stage. Argentina has already qualified for the quarterfinals with seven points from three games.
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As the Barcelona and Argentina icon turns 34, we look back at his top five international performances for his country.
#1 First World Cup goal (2006)
Lionel Messi will always remember his first World Cup goal, which he scored against Serbia and Montenegro in the 2006 tournament.
Messi came on as a 75th-minute replacement for Argentina’s second encounter in the group stage, replacing Maxi Rodriguez. Within three minutes he provided the assist for Hernan Crespo’s goal and then himself scored the team’s sixth and final goal of the match in the 88th-minute to seal a memorable win for La Albiceleste.
#2 First international hat-trick (2012)
In an international friendly in Bern, Switzerland in 2012, Lionel Messi scored his first-ever hat-trick against Switzerland.
After a feed from Sergio Aguero, the Argentine scored the game’s first goal in the 20th minute, but the hosts equalized through Xherdan Shaqiri. Messi, on the other hand, scored two more goals in the last minutes of the game to give his team the victory.
#3 Brace against Nigeria in World Cup (2014)
Lionel Messi’s effort against Nigeria in the 2014 World Cup group stage was one of his best.
Argentina had already qualified for the round of 16, but they needed a point to finish first in their group. In the third minute, Messi broke the deadlock, but Nigeria equalized within a minute.
With a 25-yard curling free-kick minutes before the break, the Argentine regained his team’s lead, but the African leveled the score two minutes into the second half. The Barcelona forward then assisted on Marcos Rojo’s third goal, giving the South American side three points.
Messi was the main performance for La Albiceleste in this World Cup tie, scoring a brace and providing an assist.
#4 Hat-trick against Brazil (2012)
The rivalry between Brazil and Argentina is one of the most ferocious in international football, and it always produces memorable matches.
Lionel Messi turned hero for Argentina in a friendly match in the United States in 2012, scoring a superb hat-trick to assist his team defeat their opponents 4-3.
#5 Hat-trick that took Argentina to World Cup (2018)
In international football, Lionel Messi has six hat-tricks, but his hat-trick against Ecuador in a 2018 World Cup qualifying game was possibly the most important hat-trick of his career for Argentina.
When La Albiceleste faced Ecuador, they were sixth in the qualifying points table, and there was a good chance they would not make it to the finals after 48 years.
To make matters worse, Ecuador took the lead early on. Lionel Messi, on the other hand, put in a masterful performance, scoring three goals to not only win the match, but also guarantee his team’s place in the World Cup.