Lionel Messi's iconic Argentina moments: Copa America, top-scorer, and Olympic gold

Lionel Messi has always specialised in moments that leave you in awe of his ability for both club and country. On what is his 35th birthday, there's no better time to reminisce.

With dozens of domestic trophies and a handful of individual awards, Lionel Messi has undoubtedly notched up every honour available to him at club level.

Contrary to his impressive domestic achievements however, the Argentine magician was made to wait until his twilight years for a major trophy on the international stage.

His 2021 Copa America success came after a number of frustrating shortcomings, including being a beaten finalist in the 2014 World Cup, and finishing as a runner-up three times in previous Copa America tournaments.

He went and added further international silverware by beating European champions Italy in Finalissima in 2022, so we can all now finally appreciate Messi's magical achievements in an Argentina shirt without the looming criticism of winning no silverware.

After all, his record-breaking tally of 86 goals and 51 assists probably deserves some recognition. Add to the mix his Olympic gold medal, Copa America conquest and tournament-saving hat-trick, and it's clear to see that the Rosario native has delivered on numerous occasions for La Albiceleste.

Here at Planet Sport, we have picked out 11 of Lionel Messi's iconic moments for Argentina.

Olympic gold medallist August 23, 2008

Having won gold just four years previously in Athens, a star-studded Argentina - coached by Sergio Batista - impressively retained their coveted Olympic title in Beijing, 2008.

In his first and only Olympic Games, Messi dazzled alongside Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, as the deadly attacking trio proved to be too much for their opposition.

Winning all six of their games, Argentina breezed through the group stages, before dismantling the Netherlands and Brazil to edge a closely contested final with Nigeria, 1-0.

An asset to his country in the tournament, Messi played a vital part in the medal-winning campaign, including a superb goal against the Dutch and a clever pass to Di Maria in the final, who converted to clinch the gold.

Goal against Nigeria June 26, 2018

Scoring one of his best in a blue and white shirt at a World Cup, Messi received a goal of the tournament nomination for his famous strike against Nigeria in the 2018 group stages.

Anticipating a 50-yard pass from Ever Banega, the mesmerising forward brought down the ball and steadied it in two perfect touches to ceremoniously convert the opener.

The strike - alongside a late finish from Marcos Rojo - was enough to secure the side a 2-1 victory and qualification to the knockout stages, as a spectating Diego Maradona gloriously celebrated from the stands.

Youngest ever World Cup captain June 22, 2010

Just two days before his 23rd birthday, Messi became his country's youngest ever World Cup captain at the 2010 tournament in South Africa.

With usual captain Javier Mascherano rested due to injury, Argentina manager Maradona awarded the forward the armband for their final group-stage game with Greece.

In a successful first game as skipper, the No.10 led his side to their third successive group win as they came out on top, winning 2-0 to qualify for the next round.

Despite not recording a goal or an assist in the game, Messi picked up the man of the match award for his impressive overall performance against the Greeks.

Youngest ever World Cup goalscorer June 16, 2006

Getting on the scoresheet on your World Cup debut is an achievement any footballer would cherish forever, even more so when it crowns you as your country's youngest ever goalscorer in the competition.

Both of these feats were achieved by an 18-year-old Messi at the 2006 tournament in Germany, when he came off the bench in his side's 6-0 thrashing of Serbia and Montenegro.

Given his tournament debut in the 74th minute by manager Jose Pekerman, the teenager had assisted Hernan Crespo and scored the team's sixth of the match by the time the final whistle was blown.

Running on to a Carlos Tevez pass, he finished past the Serbian keeper with ease to break one of many records for La Albiceleste.

U20 champion July 2, 2005

Winning his first piece of silverware for his country, Messi was awarded the Golden Shoe and MVP at the 2005 Under-20's World Cup, as the Argentinians emerged victorious.

Finishing second in their group behind USA, the team embarked on an impressive road to the final, dispatching ColombiaSpain and Brazil to schedule a final clash with Nigeria in Utrecht.

Swaying the 2-1 scoreline in his country's favour, Messi scored twice from the penalty spot as he tasted his first success on the international stage.

His return of six goals at the tournament was matched by no other player as he collected both individual awards for his superb campaign.

Beating Batistuta June 22, 2016

Messi broke yet another record for his country at the 2016 Copa America, scoring his 55th goal against the USA to replace Gabriel Batistuta atop Argentina's all-time goalscorer list.

In typical fashion, he reached the historic tally with a trademark moment of genius, placing a perfect free kick over the wall and past Brad Guzan.

The pinpoint set-piece was the first of its kind to be nominated for a FIFA Puskas Award, narrowly missing out on the prize.

Winner against Iran June 21, 2014

As a frustrating group game against Iran looked set to finish in a gruelling goalless stalemate for Alejandro Sabella's side, they were saved by a moment of class from a familiar hero.

One minute into stoppage time, Ezequiel Lavezzi picked out their talented talisman who unleashed an unstoppable 25-yard strike into the far-left corner of the Iran goal to secure an important late win.

The victory earned Messi the first of many man of the match awards in Brazil as well as securing Argentina a place in the knockout rounds.

Superclasico winner November 15, 2019

Messi finally ended his hunt for silverware as Argentina captain in 2019, when the side emerged victorious in the Superclasico de las Americas - an annual friendly between Argentina and Brazil - in Saudi Arabia.

Despite the trophy being less integral than other international honours, Argentina overcame stiff opposition in the form of a full strength Brazil team, edging the tie 1-0.

In a closely contested fixture, the Barcelona star bagged the only goal of the game, rebounding an initial saved penalty past Allison, as he celebrated his country's achievement.

2014 World Cup Best Player July 13, 2014

After an agonising World Cup campaign ended with an extra-time final defeat to Germany, Leo was offered slight consolation in the form of the FIFA Golden Ball.

Becoming just the third Argentine to win the award, he was recognised for his consistency throughout the tournament as he carried his side all the way to the Maracana.

In Brazil, Messi scored four goals and registered one assist, while winning four man of the match awards against Switzerland, Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia.

Sadly for the fantastic forward however, they fell just short of the final hurdle on that occasion.

Hat-trick against Ecuador October 11, 2017

When his underperforming team went a goal down in a must-win qualifier, it was down to a magisterial Messi to intervene, and intervene he did, with a heroic hat-trick to guarentee his side's plane tickets to Russia.

Argentina went into battle with the Ecuadorians knowing that only a win was enough to cement their place at the World Cup, and having gone behind in just 40 seconds, they were left with a monumental mountain to climb.

Sparing his country the embarrassment of missing out on the finals for the first time in 50 years, the resounding Rosarian scored twice in the first half, adding his third on the hour mark to single handedly send them through.

Embedded in their football folklore, it is regarded as one of the best individual performances ever in an Argentina shirt.

Copa America success July 10, 2021

Undoubtedly one of the best to ever kick a ball, the only criticism anyone could hold over Messi's head was his failure to win a major honour on the international stage.

It took a while - and four finals - but Messi eventually lifted the Copa America trophy in sky blue and white in 2021, after his Argentina side edged past Brazil 1-0 in the final.

After topping their group with 10 points in four games, Argentina soared past Ecuador in the quarter-finals, with Messi scoring the third of a 3-0 win to set up a semi-final clash with Colombia.

A tightly contested 1-1 followed, leaving the game to be decided by a penalty shootout. Messi stepped up first for his nation - and scored - but it was goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez who stole the headlines after saving three penalties to send his side to the final.

Messi started and captained his side for the full 90 minutes in the final, and Di Maria's breakthrough in the 22nd minute was enough to secure the trophy and end Messi's silverware curse with Argentina.

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