Lionel Messi hits 800th goal as over 80,000 people welcome Argentina’s World Cup heroes

Forward claims 99th international goal from a free-kick sending crowd in Buenos Aires into raptures

Fans of Argentina unfold a flag depicting Argentine football star Lionel Messi before the friendly football match between Argentina and Panama at the Monumental stadium in Buenos Aires. Photograph: Juan Mabromata/AFP via Getty

Lionel Messi rounded off a night of celebration with his 800th professional goal as Argentina beat Panama 2-0 in their first match since winning the World Cup.

Messi, 35, claimed his 99th international goal from a free-kick after 89 minutes, sending the 83,000 fans at the Monumental de Nunez Stadium in Buenos Aires into raptures.

Substitute Thiago Almada had grabbed the opener 11 minutes earlier after a Messi free-kick had come back off the post.

Manager Lionel Scaloni named the same starting line-up as the World Cup final with the entire squad from Qatar posing for pictures in front of a replica trophy before kick-off.


But they were made to wait for the breakthrough as Panama goalkeeper Jose Guerra produced several saves and the defence fought valiantly to keep out the World Cup champions.

Argentina face Curacao on Tuesday to round off a week which has seen Messi widely celebrated as a hero.