Having missed the opening match against Chile in the Copa América Centenario, Lionel Messi announced his presence at the tournament as he grabbed the headlines in Argentina’s 5-0 whitewashing of sorry Panama at the Soldier Field Stadium in Saturday’s match.
Messi, who came on from the bench to replace Augusto Fernández in the 61st minute, scored three second-half goals in his return from a back injury, and Argentina clinched a spot in the knockout rounds with a 5-0 victory over an overwhelmed Panama team, weakened by a flood of yellow cards.
The Barcelona forward started gingerly but grabbed Argentina’s second in the 68th minute by steering home a left foot shot after a rebound fell to him in the Panama box. He scored a gorgeous second with a 25-yard free kick just nine minutes later and then with some fancy footwork in the box gave himself enough space to slot home his third and Argentina’s fourth in the 86th minute.
Sergio Agüero, another substitute, made it 5-0 with a header in the final moments of the match.