• Lionel Messi broke Pele's long-standing CONMEBOL goal-scoring record in Argentina's win over Bolivia
  • The game against Bolivia also made Messi Argentina's most capped player with 153 appearances
  • Argentina also won its first Copa America title since 1993 in a 1-0 victory over Brazil in July

Lionel Messi further cemented his legacy as he broke Brazilian legend Pele’s record for the most goals scored by a South American player.

Messi scored all three of his nation’s goals en route to defeating Bolivia in a World Cup Qualifier match at the Monumental Stadium in Buenos Aires, giving him two more goals than Pele’s 77 goals scored in his international career.

He now ranks fifth on the list of international goalscorers, alongside Zambian great Godfrey Chitalu with 79 goals.

Messi trails fierce rival Cristiano Ronaldo by 32 goals for the No. 1 spot.

"I was very nervous, I just wanted to enjoy the night. I waited a long time for this," a tearful Messi said. "We won the game, that was the most important thing and now we can celebrate."

Messi’s tears were not because of his amazing feat, but because he had finally won his first Copa America title, bringing an end to all the criticism of him not winning an international trophy with Argentina.

It is another feather in the cap of the Argentinian legend as he led his side to their first Copa America title since 1993 back in July, after defeating Brazil 1-0 at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

"It was a unique moment [to win the Copa America] because of where and how we obtained the title," Messi stated.

"There was no better way to do it and [to be] able to celebrate the title now, it's incredible. My mother, my brothers are here in the stands. They have suffered a lot ... I'm very happy."

Messi is now also Argentina’s most capped player as his hat-trick brilliance against Bolivia gave him his 153rd international appearance.

Argentina and Messi had three chances to win the Copa America title in the past decade but always fell short and now. Now, a weight from their shoulders has been lifted.

When Messi retires, football fans can look back on 2021 as one of the most important years in his career.