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Messi scores hat trick off the bench to lead Argentina past Panama

Photo by Mike DiNovo/USA Today Sports
Photo by Mike DiNovo/USA Today Sports

CHICAGO – The most consistent cheers for the first hour Friday night at Soldier Field came whenever the heavily pro-Argentina crowd got a glimpse of Lionel Messi on the video board or when he and his fellow substitutes got up to jog and stay loose.

Once Argentina took an early lead over Panama, and then went up a man, the only suspense seemed to be whether the Barcelona star would make his return from injury – and Copa America Centenario debut – in the second game of the group stage or wait another couple nights.

It took 61 minutes, but the crowd finally got what it wanted and when they did, Messi put on a show for them. The cheers grew in the 59th minute when he was summoned to the bench and changed into a jersey. What he did over the next 30 minutes after he entered kept the roars coming.

Messi scored a hat trick over the final half hour to lead Argentina to a 5-0 victory over 10-man Panama in front of 53,885 at Soldier Field. The win gives Argentina six points from two games in Group D, all but assuring them a spot in the quarterfinals. Panama has three points heading into its final group game.

Argentina took control of the match early on. Nicolas Otamendi gave Argentina a 1-0 lead in the 7th minute, nodding home an Angel Di Maria free kick at the back post.

Despite trailing, Panama responded well in the ensuing minutes and wasn’t without its chances, having a couple shots blocked around the top of the box and forcing Sergio Romero to make three first-half saves.

That stopped, however, when they went down to 10 men.

Anibal Godoy was sent off in the 31st minute when he picked up his second yellow card.

Messi pounced on a turnover in the box to score his first goal in the 68th minute, doubling Argentina’s lead. Ten minutes later he perfectly placed a left-footed free kick into the top corner to make it 3-0. Messi completed his 19-minute hat trick in the 87th minute.

Sergio Aguero added the fifth goal in the 90th minute. That one also came from Messi’s influence, as his long diagonal ball was knocked down for Aguero by Marcos Rojo.

It wasn’t all perfect for Argentina though as Di Maria was subbed off in the 43rd minute, being replaced by Erik Lamela, for what looked like injury precautions.


Lionel Messi returned from injury in the 61st minute on Friday and scored three times in less than 20 minutes.


Messi scored the best of his three goals in the 78th minute, bending a free kick perfectly into the top right corner.


Already down a goal, Panama midfielder Anibal Godoy made things tougher on his side when he picked up a second yellow card and was sent off in the 32nd minute.


  1. Tough for Panama, who showed signs of holding Argentina back. Stupid fouls. But wasn’t Messi’s first goal assisted by a clear handball? How does that not get called?

  2. Argentina out talents Panama all over the field but, wow……. with the brain farts, cheap shots……. it was as if Panama was looking for a way out of this game before it started.

    Messi? just doin’ Messi. Pura 10s

  3. I may get ridiculed for this and I know it was only against Paname but this guy could rival Lewandowski one day if he keeps this up.

  4. the man came in in the 61 minute (Argentina only up 1-0) and the Hat-trick commenced in the 68th!!! lol like, what the hell?!!!


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