Messi hits 50 for country
LIONEL Messi scored his 50th international goal as Argentina notched their third straight victory in South America's 2018 World Cup qualifying tournament.
In another tie, Brazil snatched a dramatic late draw against Paraguay on Tuesday.
Messi swept in an emphatic spot-kick after half an hour to help Argentina to a 2-0 win over Bolivia at the Estadio Mario Kempes in Cordoba.
The win lifted the two-time world champions to third in the overall standings.
The Barcelona superstar's goalscoring exploits make him only the second player in Argentine history to reach a half century of goals.
The 28-year-old is closing in on Gabriel Batistuta's 56 goals, from 1991 to 2002.
Messi needs only one more goal to reach 500 goals for club and country.
He could achieve that milestone with Barcelona this weekend when they take on Real Madrid in the Clasico.
The Argentina win suggests their troubled start to qualifying - which began with a shock 2-0 home defeat to Ecuador - is firmly in the rear view mirror.
Messi's Barca team-mate Dani Alves was the hero of Brazil's 2-2 draw in Asuncion.
Paraguay looked to be on course for another famous victory to go with their Copa America wins over Brazil in 2011 and last year. They took a 2-0 lead early in the second half via goals from Dario Lezcano and Edgar Benitez.
But a Ricardo Oliveira goal on 79 minutes gave Brazil a lifeline as the clock ticked down.
Deep into injury time, Chelsea forward Willian fed Alves and the full-back surged into the area to curl his shot beyond goalkeeper Justo Villar.
Brazil, missing striker Neymar and defender David Luiz via suspension, might even have grabbed a late winner but Villar saved an Alves shot.
It was the second straight game that Paraguay had conceded an injury-time equaliser after Ecuador's 2-2 draw last week.
However, manager Ramon Diaz refused to sound downbeat despite missing out on the win.
"It shows we are capable of matching these big teams," he said. "The important thing is that we are growing as a team," added the former Argentine international.
Uruguay lead the standings with 13 points from six games after they followed up last Friday's 2-2 draw in Brazil with a 1-0 victory over Peru in Montevideo on Tuesday.
Over in Asian qualifying, Australia coach Ange Poste-coglou said his team is good enough to beat anyone in Asia and he was not worried who they draw in the next round of World Cup qualifying.
He was full of confidence after the Socceroos dismantled Harry Redknapp's Jordan 5-1 in Sydney on Tuesday to win Group B of Asian qualifying, meaning they enter the third and final phase to make the 2018 tournament in Russia.
"We're growing as a team. Twelve months ago, everyone is saying 'Who's going to score apart from Timmy (Cahill)?'" said Postecoglou.
"Well, Timmy's still scoring, yet we're getting multiple goal-scorers from all over the place."
Cahill hit a brace against Jordan to take his international tally to 47 from 89 appearances.
Colombia bt Ecuador 3-1
Uruguay bt Peru 1-0
Chile bt Venezuela 4-1