Lionel Messi scored his 55th international goal to become his country’s all-time leading scorer as Argentina thrashed hosts the United States 4-0 to ease into the final of the Centenary Copa America on Tuesday night.
The capacity crowd in Houston had come to witness the Barcelona star etch his name in the history books and he did not disappoint, curling a sensational freekick past Brad Guzan after 32 minutes to put Argentina 2-0 ahead.
Messi had been chopped down by Chris Wondolowski 25 yards from goal as he burst forward and the ensuing strike moved him clear of Gabriel “Batigol” Batistuta’s 54 goal tally.
Messi, who turns 29 tomorrow, says: “I am happy to have surpassed Batistuta’s record and I want to thank my teammates, it’s theirs as well.
The win, meanwhile, advanced Argentina into Sunday’s final against either Colombia or reigning champions Chile, who met last night.
The Albiceleste scored three other goals, with Messi setting up Ezequiel Lavezzi and Gonzalo Higuain’s second strike.
The result means Argentina have scored 18 goals in five games and conceded just two as they power towards what they hope will be their 15th Copa America title, and first since 1993, to take them level with all-time leaders Uruguay.
The win would also cap Messi’s international career after years of disappointment. Argentina reached the finals of their last two tournaments – the Copa America in 2015 and the World Cup in 2014 – but were narrowly beaten in both.