Messi hits hat-trick as Argentina makes it to Round16.

Messi hits hat-trick as Argentina makes it to Round16.

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Lionel Messi Celebrates his goal

Argentina captain Lionel Messi scored 3 times in a dazzling performance as Argentina progressed to the knockout stage in the ongoing Copa America Centenario with 5-0 thumping of Panama.

Nicolas Otamendi opened the scoring for Argentina after 8 minutes and Messi increased the tally with three successive goals in the 67th, 78th and 87th minutes on his return from injury.

Sergio Aguero then wrapped it all up with a fine finish as Argentina thrush their Group D opponent 5-0 to make the round of 16.

The South American giants have a game in hand but two successive victories in the group stage meant they have secured a place in the next phase of the competition.

In the other group D clash, Chile beat Bolivia 2-1 to enhance their stay in the competition.

Arturo Vidal’s brace gave Chile a chance as they stage a defence for the title they won at the expense of Argentina in 2015.

Chile must avoid defeat in their next Group match against Panama, to gain qualification to the round of 16.

14-time Copa America Champions, Argentina are hoping to equal the record of Uruguay who have won the title 15 times.

By – Seth Acquaye

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