King back. Lionel Messi has arrived at the Copa América Centenario and made his presence immediately felt with a hat trick against Panama. When Messi began warming up he drew a huge ovation, and the reaction to his entrance 16 minutes into the second half of the game may have elicited the loudest cheers in the tournament. And then, the fun started.
The best of the goals – a precise free kick that curled over the wall of defenders and past a diving Jaime Penedo – showed the kind of magic we’ve come to expect from the best player in the world.
Messi rarely forgives and Panama found that out the hard way. For his first, he easily beat the goalkeeper after a mistake by a Panama defender.
He capped his night by cutting back in the box and coolly finishing around the keeper.
Messi’s goals were bookended by goals by Nicolás Otamendi and Kun Agüero. The 5-0 win guarantees Argentina a place in the next round of the tournament, which means more Messi and his bearded magic.