Lionel Messi hailed “the work of the whole team” as his hat-trick helped Argentina to a 5-0 win against Panama and reach the Copa America quarter-finals.
Messi needed 19 second-half minutes to hit a treble after he was brought on as a substitute, and the Barcelona forward expressed his relief at not only seeing his country reach the knockout stages of the tournament but also overcoming his back pain.
“I was in pain but thankfully, little by little, I got going and thought it was best to start slowly and play a little bit, and that was what happened,” he said after the game.
“[The victory] was the work of the whole team because we worked very hard and intensely so our opponents couldn’t play.
“The win would’ve secured first place, and we did that. We’re growing and calmly.
“Hopefully [we can win the Copa] because it’s what all the players want.”