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Buenos Aires, March 24 – Lionel Messi scored his 800th career goal as Argentina beat Panama 2-0 in the South American team’s first match since winning the World Cup in December.
Despite dominating possession, it took until the 78th minute for Argentina to take the lead as Thiago Almada bundled in from close range after Messi’s 30-yard effort from a set piece cannoned off the left post, reports Xinhua.
The Argentina captain doubled the advantage by curling a free-kick into the top-right corner a minute from time.
The match was played amid a party atmosphere at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires as more than 80,000 fans cheered on their World Cup heroes.
“I always dreamed of this moment, to celebrate with you in my country Argentina, lifting the greatest thing that is the World Cup,” Messi said during a post-match ceremony, referring to the Albiceleste’s 36-year wait to win their third World Cup trophy.
“Let’s keep doing what we are doing and enjoy this because we have been waiting a long time to win it again. Let’s enjoy the third star.”
Messi’s strike means he has now scored 99 times for Argentina, in addition to his 701 goals at the club level.
Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni expressed “eternal gratitude” to his players, saying they deserved all of the credit for the triumph in Qatar.
“Everyone who wears this shirt gives their all and sometimes the results don’t come,” the 44-year-old said. “But this time we did it and it’s an incredible feeling.”