Lionel Messi has been a man on a mission at Copa America 2021. Playing his tenth major tournament in Argentina colors, the 34-year-old is determined to end his well-documented international title drought.
Considering his stellar exploits in club football - ten La Liga and four Champions League titles, to name a few (all for Barcelona), a major international title is conspicuous by its absence in Messi's glittering resume.
The Argentina captain has endured four failures in major tournament finals - three at the Copa America (2007, 2015, 2016) and one at the FIFA World Cup (2014). Following his third Copa final defeat in 2016, Messi was so heartbroken that he announced his retirement from international football. He then reversed the decision a few months later.
However, Messi endured further heartbreak after a second-round exit to France at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and a loss in the 2019 Copa America semi-finals against arch-rivals Brazil. The 34-year-old knows time is running out for him to win an elusive international title.
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At the Copa America 2021, Lionel Messi has scored four goals and provided five assists, topping both charts, to help Argentina book a dream final against Brazil. In the process, the 34-year-old has already achieved a few milestones and could reach a few more in the title match against the Selecao.
On that note, let's have a look at five milestones Messi has already achieved and could achieve at the Copa America 2021.
#5 Lionel Messi has broken the record for most assists in a single edition of the Copa America
Even at the age of 34, Lionel Messi has produced performances at the 2021 Copa America that bely his age.
In addition to scoring four goals, the Albiceleste captain has conjured scoring opportunities aplenty for teammates. With his fifth assist of the tournament coming in Argentina's penalty-shootout win over Colombia, Messi now has the most assists in a single edition of the Copa.
Lionel Messi means business at Copa America 2021 and would need some stopping. Brazil have been suitably warned.
#4 First Argentina player to feature in six Copa America tournaments
By featuring in Argentina's Copa America 2021 opener against Chile, Lionel Messi became the first player from his country to feature in six different editions of the Copa. The Albiceleste drew the game 1-1, thanks to an assist from their captain.
In the process, the 34-year-old broke a tie with his compatriot Javier Mascherano, who appeared in five different Copa America tournaments.
Messi made his Copa America debut in 2007, when Argentina endured a 3-0 loss to Brazil in the final. Four years later, the Albiceleste lost in a penalty shootout to Uruguay in the quarter-finals, a tournament they hosted.
In 2015, Messi reached his second Copa final in three appearances, but Argentina lost on penalties to first-time winners Chile in the summit clash. A year later, at the 100th edition of the Copa, which was staged in the USA, the Albiceleste endured more shootout heartbreak, once again losing to Chile on penalties in the final.
Three years later, Lionel Messi's Argentina fell in the semi-final to eventual winners Brazil in 2019.
#3 Lionel Messi is now Argentina's most capped player in international football
By featuring in Argentina's 4-1 win over Bolivia, Lionel Messi surpassed Javier Mascherano to become the most capped player in international football for the Albiceleste.
With two more appearances at the tournament, Messi joined a handful of players to make at least 150 appearances for their country.
#2 Joint-most appearances in Copa America history (not yet achieved)
Across six different editions of the Copa America, Lionel Messi has played 33 games. This is just one short of the all-time record for most appearances by any player at the tournament.
Chile's Sergio Livingstone (34) has played the most games by any player in Copa America history. This is a mark Messi is set to emulate by appearing in the Copa America 2021 final against Brazil.
#1 Most goals in Copa America history (not yet achieved)
With 13 career goals in the Copa America, Lionel Messi is only four short of the all-time record for most goals by a player at the tournament.
Brazil's Zizinho and Argentina's Norberto Mendez (both 17) are the two joint all-time goalscorers in Copa America history. This is mark Messi could emulate by scoring four times against Brazil in the Copa America 2021 final.
However, that is unlikely to happen in the Copa America 2021 final. For one, Messi has never scored against Brazil in competitive games. Moreover, the Argentine has also never featured in a competitive win against his team's arch-rivals.
There is another unlikely record in his sights in the final as well. If Messi scores twice against Brazil in the final, he will go past Pele and become the most prolific South American goalscorer in international football.