Lionel Messi's Record-Breaking Display Fuels Argentina in World Cup Qualifiers
|Lionel Messi of Argentina and Wilder Cartagena of Peru battle for the ball during a FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifier match between Peru and Argentina at Estadio Nacional de Lima on October 17, 2023 in Lima, Peru(Image-Getty)
Lionel Messi become the all-time top scorer in South American World Cup qualifying on Tuesday after netting both goals in Argentina's 2-0 win over Peru in Lima.
Messi, who was included in the squad despite having been sidelined in recent weeks with a muscle problem, came on as a substitute in Thursday's 1-0 win over Paraguay but was on the pitch from the start of the game in Lima.
The 36-year-old put the world champions ahead in the 32nd minute with a superb shot after an assist from Nicolas Gonzalez, and made it 2-0 10 minutes later with a fierce finish from Enzo Fernandez's pass.
Messi, who was denied a hat-trick in the second half when he had a goal disallowed for offside following a VAR review, became CONMEBOL's leading scorer in World Cup qualifiers with his double taking his tally to 31, breaking a tie with Uruguay's Luis Suarez.
"This team is incredible, every time they are very close to being the best in history," Messi said.
"On a game level I think we have grown. After winning the World Cup we are confident, very loose, more united and firm. Hopefully we can continue to grow," he added.
Coach Lionel Scaloni said Argentina's players were on the same wavelength as Messi, who is planning to retire before the 2026 World Cup.
"The team has understood Messi for a long time, it benefits him and he feels comfortable," he added. "I hope he plays as much as he can because everyone is happy to see him on the pitch."
In other qualifiers on Tuesday, Uruguay beat Brazil 2-0 with Neymar forced to leave the field after suffering what appeared to be a serious knee injury.
Venezuela cruised past Chile 3-0, Paraguay beat 1-0 Bolivia and Ecuador draw 0-0 against Colombia.
Argentina, who remain top of the CONMEBOL standings, will host Uruguay on Nov. 16 before taking on Brazil five days later.
Peru face Bolivia and Venezuela in the next round of qualifiers.