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Messi Sets Argentina Cap Record, Scores Twice to Clinch First-Place in Group at Copa America

Lionel Messi has added another record to his immense collection: most international appearances for Argentina. 

On Monday, Messi earned his 148th cap in Argentina's final group match of the 2021 Copa América against Bolivia, which sees the star surpass former Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano's record. 

The Rosario native, who just turned 34 last Thursday, made his first appearance for Argentina in August 2005, when he came on as a substitute against Hungary in an infamous debut that lasted only a minute after he received a red card. Things have gotten considerably better since.

Messi entered the night already Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer with 73 international goals, and he added two more in the first half—one on a penalty kick, another on a deft chip—putting him in a tie for ninth on the men's all-time international goalscoring list. He also assisted on Papu Gómez's opener.

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Messi's new Barcelona teammate, Sergio Agüero, also had an occasion to celebrate Monday with his 100th career appearance for La Albiceleste. 

Argentina came into the match against Bolivia in first place in Group A after going unbeaten in its first three games, which included wins against Uruguay and Paraguay and a draw with Chile. With the 4–1 triumph, it clinched first and set up a quarterfinal date vs. Ecuador. Uruguay-Colombia is the other pairing on that side of the knockout bracket, while Brazil-Chile and Peru-Paraguay are the other matchups.

Messi opened Argentina's tournament with a brilliant free kick against Chile, the 57th free-kick goal of his career, to add to his international highlight reel. He is still chasing an elusive major international trophy with Argentina, though, after helping his country to second-place finishes at the 2014 World Cup, the 2015 Copa América and the 2016 Copa América Centenario. Argentina hasn't won a major trophy since the 1993 Copa América.

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