Argentina captain Lionel Messi on Tuesday scored his 100th international goal for the reigning world champion as it outclassed Curacao with a 7-0 win.
Seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi opened the scoring against the Caribbean island minnows in 20 minutes at the Santiago del Estero.
It came 17 years after he opened his Argentina account in a 3-2 defeat to Croatia in March 2006.
The 35-year-old soon added another just after the half-hour mark to make it 3-0 and then completed his hat-trick in the 37th minute with the fifth as Argentina toyed with its overmatched opponent.
It was his seventh hat-trick for the national team.
Messi came into the game not just as his country’s all-time record goalscorer, but with more goals than the next two top marksmen -- Gabriel Batistuta with 56 and Sergio Aguero with 41 -- put together.
This was Argentina’s second match since winning the World Cup in dramatic style against France in Qatar in December -- triumphing 4-2 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw -- and it was always going to be about Messi reaching 100 goals.
He remains third in the all-time list, behind rival Cristiano Ronaldo (122) of Portugal and Iran’s Ali Daei (109).
‘Straight to the museum’
Messi had come up short on Thursday last week when he notched his 99th goal for the Albiceleste as Argentina toiled in its homecoming celebration match against Panama.
The Central Americans had held out until the 78th minute before 21-year-old MLS sensation Thiago Almada broke their resistance.
Messi then scored direct from a free-kick a minute from time -- his 800th goal in professional football -- in front of 83,000 delirious fans in Buenos Aires.
Curacao, ranked 86th by the world governing body FIFA, could only hold out for 20 minutes before Messi took a pass from Giovanni Lo Celso, cut inside his marker onto his weaker right foot and fired a low shot into the bottom corner.
The referee was then seen, on live television, throwing the ball to someone on the side of the pitch as DirecTV commentators speculated that it was heading “straight to the museum.”
Three minutes later Nicolas Gonzalez outjumped goalkeeper Eloy Room to head home from four yards.
Gonzalez turned provider as Messi scored the first of three goals in four minutes, this time with his left foot.
He then laid off the ball for Enzo Fernandez to make it four with a shot from distance before Lo Celso released Messi behind the defence to notch his third.
Argentina took its foot off the gas in the second half, with only a generously-awarded Angel Di Maria penalty and close-range finish from Gonzalo Montiel adding to the score.
But the 42,000 fans present remained in a party mood throughout, waiting for their heroes to lift the World Cup trophy in front of them.
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