After a victory in pain Thursday against Panama (61st in the world), for the first meeting of Argentina since its world title in December in Qatar, the program of this second friendly match was lightened against Curacao (86th), island of the Netherlands Antilles of 152,000 inhabitants off Venezuela.

The very modest opposition proposed allowed the 42,000 spectators gathered at the stadium of Santiago del Estero (east) to continue the idyll between the Albiceleste and the Argentine people. And to the idol of the country, captain Leo Messi, to enter a little more in the history of national football.

As early as the 19th minute, he opened the scoring with a cross-shot from the right at the penalty spot but especially scored his 100th goal in the sky blue and white striped jersey. He is by far Argentina's all-time top scorer, surpassing even his two pursuers, Gabriel Batistuta (56 goals) and Sergio Aguero (41).

Balloon "at the museum"

The symbolic milestone was expected. The ball was taken out of the playing area by the referee and should "end up in the museum", according to the ecstatic Argentine commentators of the match.

Then Messi scored again, again from the penalty spot but from the left (32nd), then launched deep (36th), to bring his total to 102 goals. He is now seven lengths from second place in the ranking of top scorers in selection occupied by Iran's Ali Daei (109). But still far from the Portuguese Cristiano Ronaldo (122).

Argentina's Lionel Messi (center) battles Curacao midfielder Juninho Bacuna (left) and defender Roshon van Eijma on March 28, 2023 during a friendly match in Santiago del Estero © Alejandro PAGNI / AFP

Scorer against Panama, Messi had already reached another level, that of the 800th goal scored in his career. Here too, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner is still well ahead of Ronaldo (who has only five).

This victory with goals from Nicolas Gonzalez (22), Enzo Fernandez (34), Angel di Maria (78 s.p) and Gonzalo Montiel (86), should allow Argentina, already on top of the world, to seize the first place in the FIFA ranking after the defeat Saturday of Brazil against Morocco (2-1).

After the match, captain Messi once again lifted the World Cup (as on Thursday after the match against Panama) and sang "Muchachos", the team's anthem at the World Cup, under a shower of glitter and a large fireworks display.

A last moment of drunkenness before returning to everyday life with Paris SG. His private plane was waiting for him on the tarmac of Santiago del Estero to return directly to France.

© 2023 AFP