Lionel Messi scores hat-trick for Argentina at the Copa Centenario

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Lionel Messi was forced to sit out Argentina's Copa Centenario opener, a 2-1 victory against Chile, because of a back injury. Now he's back with a bang.

The Barcelona genius stole the show in his side's 5-0 win against Panama having emerged as a second-half substitute after 61 minutes, scoring within minutes of coming on before firing home an incredible long-range free-kick.

The 28-year-old rounded off his brilliant cameo with three minutes of regular time remaining.

While Messi sat on the side-lines in the first half, Argentina opened the scoring against their limited opponents through defender Nicolas Otamendi with just seven minutes on the clock.

Tata Martino's men then struggled to put the game to rest up until the hour mark - until Messi entered the game and put Panama to the sword in Chicago.

"I am grateful for all this support," Messi said afterwards. "It was great to be here, especially because of the public. I am very grateful.

"I lost the pain gradually. Then, I managed to make my first goal. It was a team effort, in a tense game, with very tall grass, dry. It was tricky, but we got where we wanted."

Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero rounded off the rout with a strike on the 90-minute mark.

The result, coupled with the victory over champions Chile, means Argentina have now qualified for the knockout stages of the Copa Centenario. That could mean Messi is rested once more before the going gets tough, but it's fair to say he's already had a major impact on the tournament, despite playing less than 45 minutes.

Can Messi guide Argentina to the Copa title this summer?

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Angel di Maria
Lionel Messi
Sergio Aguero
Argentina Football
Gonzalo Higuain

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