Lionel Messi means business in this Copa America Centenario as the Barcelona star and Argentina look for a long-awaited major trophy. Having missed the win over Chile with a back injury, Messi showed just why he is considered the best player in the world with a sumptuous hat-trick, and that too despite only coming on in the second half.
Argentina ran rampant courtesy that Messi hat-trick, with Panama left with no answers as the Albiceleste put five goals past them in Chicago to march into the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario.
After Nicolas Otamendi opened the scoring for Argentina in the seventh minute of the game, fans had to wait another 61 minutes to see the next goal, even if that wait was worth it as Messi announced himself on this special edition tournament with a special strike. Messi would then complete his hat-trick in 19 more minutes, with Sergio Aguero grabbing a goal for himself right at the death as well to complete the easy win over Panama.
Otamendi scored early with a header off a freekick from Angel Di Maria, the outstanding player from Argentina's win over Chile, before Messi took over. Messi had been on the pitch for less than seven minutes when he got his first goal, a trademark strike into the bottom corner.
The Argentine wonder showed his dead ball skills, curling in a sumptuous freekick from nearly 30 yards out into the top corner, leaving the Panama goalkeeper with no chance right on 78 minutes. The hat-trick was completed with a control off a zipped-in ball from Marcos Rojo and an assured as they come finish.
Aguero, another substitute, would then add the gloss to the Argentina party in the 90th minute.
In the early Group D match, Arturo Vidal was the hero as Chile beat Bolivia 2-1, thanks to a late, late goal. Vidal opened the scoring in the first minute of the second half, only to see Jhasmani Campos equalise on the hour. The match looked to be heading towards a draw, but in the tenth minute of stoppage time, Vidal slotted in a penalty, after a controversial spotkick was awarded for a Luis Guittierez handball.
This was a crucial win for Chile, and now they need to beat Panama in their last Copa America Centenario group stage match to join Argentina in the quarterfinals.