Sept. 10 (UPI) -- Soccer star Lionel Messi scored three times to become the top-scoring South American man in international games and lead Argentina to a win over Bolivia in a World Cup qualifier.
He passed Brazilian legend Pele's career total of 77 with his second score in the 3-0 victory Thursday at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Messi found the net in the 14th, 64th and 88th minutes of the shutout.
The Argentines outshot the Bolivians 23-7 in the win.
Argentina midfielder Leandro Paredes stole the ball from the Bolivia defense to spark the first score. He took his dribble toward the Bolivia box and slipped a pass into Messi, who was not facing the goal.
Messi tapped the ball around a defender. He used his next touch to bend a left-footed shot past Bolivia goalie Carlos Lampe and into the left side of the net. That score tied Pele's total.
Argentina carried the narrow lead through the halftime whistle. Messi scored for a second time, and set a new record, midway through the second half.
Argentina forward Lautaro Martinez and Messi did a give-and-go pass sequence twice while inside the left side of the box to set up that score.
Messi received Martinez's final pass and smacked the ball off a defender. He recovered the deflection and sent a right-footed shot past Lampe.
Messi completed his hat-trick about 14 minutes later when he followed up a deflected shot. Right wing Nicolas Gonzalez attempted the initial shot from about 20 yards out. Lampe blocked the attempt, but the ball bounced to the left, where Messi was there to bury a first-touch shot inside the near post.
Messi pushed his goals total to 79 for Argentina in international matches. He trails Brazilian women Marta (109 goals) and Cristiane (96) for the most goals scored by a South American in international play.
Argentina battles Paraguay in another World Cup qualifier Oct. 7 in Asuncion, Paraguay.