Copa America 2016: Lionel Messi scores three goals as sub for Argentina

Messi is arguably the best player on the planet right now, and news that the five-time Ballon d'Or victor might miss part of Copa America with a back injury cast a damper over what was organizers hoped would be a historic tournament. Standing over a free kick in the box, Messi curled a shot into the right corner of the goal and left Fernandez helpless.

Aguero rounded off the rout for Argentina three minutes later.

Within seven minutes of being on the pitch, he clinically found the back of the net to put the game beyond Panama. "I really wanted to play for the outcome, for the goals. Very happy, to be honest".

With the placement of the free kick ideal for the curve put on the ball by Messi's left foot kicks, he promptly set up and ripped a shot into the top right corner in the 78th minute for his second goal of the night, putting Argentina up 3-0.

"Messi is a man who is above everyone" Argentina coach Gerardo Martino said about Messi's return to squad. "Thirty minutes, and we were already spent. Messi is a monster".

Charles Rex Arbogast  Associated Press
Charles Rex Arbogast Associated Press

Panama is now sitting on three points with Argentina in Group D after beating Bolivia 2-1.

Argentina, which secured a spot in the knockout round with the win, will face Bolivia on Tuesday, while Panama and Chile, who have three points apiece, will battle for second place in Group D.

Messi was nursing a back injury, suffered in a pre-Copa America friendly against Honduras, and he missed the opening match against Chile.

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  • Jo Lloyd