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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Lionel Messi equals Argentina's all-time goal-scoring record

Lionel Messi is now level with Gabriel Batistuta as Argentina's all-time top goal scorer.

Batistuta struck 54 times in 78 appearances for Argentina (the AFA does not count two goals he scored against the Slovakian youth team in 1995) in an international career that ran between 1991 and 2002 and included winning the 1991 and 1993 Copa America and scoring hat tricks in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups.

But Messi, 28, has now equalled that record with his goal against Venezuela in the 60th minute of his side's 4-1 win at the Gillette Stadium that booked their place in the Copa America Centenario semifinals.

Of the feat, he said: "I tied it, still haven't broken it. But I'm happy to be next to Bati, with all that means.''

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His manager, Gerardo Martino, said: "I hope he gets the chance to be alone with the record. I would love for it to happen in the Copa America."

With the Barcelona star on 54 goals, his international teammates Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain are his closest rivals, on 33 and 26 goals respectively.

Of Messi's 54 goals for Argentina, 27 have come in friendly games, 15 in World Cup qualifying encounters, seven in the Copa America and five in the World Cup.

Messi came off the bench to score a hat trick during the recent 5-0 win against Panama in the Copa America and in total he has netted nine times as a substitute and on 45 occasions as a starter.

Among Messi's haul there have been four hat tricks, six braces and 30 single goals with 42 coming from open play and 11 from the penalty spot.

Argentina cruised past Venezuela to reach the Copa semifinals.
Lionel Messi recorded a goal and two assists in his first start at the Copa America Centenario.

Brazil and Paraguay are Messi's favourite opponents, having scored four times against each, while he has netted three times against seven different countries.

Messi, then 18, made his Argentina debut in a friendly match against Hungary in 2005, getting sent off just two minutes after coming on as a substitute, but didn't score his first international goal until his sixth appearance, a 3-2 defeat against Croatia, again in a friendly match.

His first competitive goal came soon after during the 2006 World Cup as Argentina thrashed Serbia and Montenegro 6-0 but he had to wait until cap No. 68 for his first hat trick, which came in Feb. 2012 during a 3-1 friendly win against Switzerland.

Messi became only the second Argentina player to reach 50 goals in March this year when he scored in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win against Bolivia.

Over the last two years Messi has helped Argentina reach World Cup and Copa America finals but he is yet to win a major tournament with his country.

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