Lionel Messi praised Argentina's performance against Peru and believes they are only getting stronger.

Nicolas Gonzalez and Lautaro Martinez scored first-half goals in Lima on Tuesday, lifting Lionel Scaloni's men to a third win in four World Cup 2022 qualifiers.

Argentina extended their unbeaten run to 11 games, while they have won their past three away qualifiers – something they had not achieved since 2000.

Messi was pleased with Argentina's display, which came five days after their draw at home to Paraguay.

"Happy with the victory, we needed it after the game we played the other day," the star said, via Argentina's Twitter account.

"From the beginning we had a great match, the goals came and we created many, many chances."

Messi added: "The second half the other day was already very good and I think we continued on the same line, even raising the level a bit.

"I think this is the way we have to follow. Little by little we are becoming stronger as a group."

Messi made his 142nd Argentina appearance against Peru, joining Brazil great Cafu for the equal fifth most by a South American man.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner wants to continue contributing for Argentina, who won in Peru for the first time since 2004.

"Whenever I come here I try to do my best and I feel qualified to fight for this shirt," Messi said.

"I feel good to continue working and adding games."

Nicolas Gonzalez continued his rapid rise and Lautaro Martinez was on target as Argentina maintained their unbeaten start to CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win over Peru.

Argentina's perfect record was ended in a draw against Paraguay last time out, however the Albiceleste stayed undefeated on the road to Qatar 2022 thanks to Gonzalez and Martinez in Lima on Tuesday.

Gonzalez, who scored in the Paraguay stalemate, opened the scoring with his second international goal in five appearances in the 17th minute before Martinez doubled Argentina's lead 11 minutes later.

With the result, Argentina remain second and two points behind CONMEBOL leaders Brazil through four matchdays.

Peru started on the front foot at the Estadio Nacional, where Christian Cueva appealed for a penalty inside the ninth minute but it was waived away by the referee, despite a pitch-side review – Argentina goalkeeper Franco Armani was adjudged not to have made contact.

Pedro Gallese did not have much to do, but he was forced to collect the ball from his net after Gonzalez capped a fine team goal – Giovani Lo Celso creating space in a sublime movement before laying off a pass with the outside of his boot as the former finished powerfully across the Peru goalkeeper.

Lionel Messi almost helped double Argentina's lead when he played a throughball for Nicolas Tagliafico, who was denied by a last-ditch block in the 24th minute.

Argentina, though, did get their second goal four minutes later after Martinez broke the offside trap, running onto Leandro Paredes' pass down the middle and rounding Gallese in a swift attacking move.

While Peru ended the half strongly, they had nothing to show for it, though they continued to build some momentum in the second half.

Lucas Ocampos almost scored a goal with his first touch, but Gallese made a fine save approaching the hour-mark, after Messi's exquisite pass almost released Martinez.

Messi tried desperately to get on the scoresheet, but he had his penalty appeals waived away and his goal-bound effort was deflected for a corner, while substitute Angel Di Maria was thwarted by Gallese.

 

What does it mean? Argentina roll on

Argentina are yet to taste defeat in four World Cup 2022 qualifiers. Not since last year's Copa America in July have Lionel Scaloni's side lost – a run of 11 international fixtures. It was also Argentina's first victory away to Peru since September 2004, having drawn three times previously.

Lo Celso shines in Lima

After impressing off the bench against Paraguay, Lo Celso was at it again from the outset on Tuesday. He helped set the tone with a wonderful assist – his quick feet, vision, composure and passing on display.

Subdued Messi wasteful

Messi was far from his best against Peru, but it did not matter as the likes of Lo Celso and Paredes stepped up. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner was not without his chances, though Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer uncharacteristically saw two golden opportunities go begging in the second half. Messi has now gone three international matches without scoring.

What's next?

Argentina will be back in action in March next year, the South American powerhouse facing rivals Uruguay and Brazil, while Peru will take on Bolivia and Venezuela.

Lionel Scaloni was happy with what he saw from Lionel Messi as Argentina prepare to face Peru in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Amid concerns over an ankle injury, Messi played in Argentina's 1-1 draw with Paraguay on Thursday, having a goal ruled out in the second half.

Argentina coach Scaloni said he was pleased with Messi, who is set to make his 142nd international appearance – to go equal with Brazil great Cafu for the fifth most by a South American.

"On a performance level, Leo played a good game," he told a news conference.

"We were unlucky that they didn't validate the goal because it had been a great play."

Scaloni added: "I saw him well and he has no problem, that's the important thing."

Argentina will seek to extend their unbeaten run in qualifiers against Peru to 16 matches, but Scaloni also wanted to send his well wishes to Javier Mascherano.

Mascherano, the former Barcelona and Liverpool star who has the most caps in Argentina's history, announced his retirement on Sunday.

"I want to emphasise the retirement of Javier Mascherano and his new life that begins from now on. I send him a big hug," Scaloni said.

"He was an emblem of Argentine football and I wish him to do his best and that whatever he decides to do now, he does it with the same passion with which he used to play."

Meanwhile, Peru coach Ricardo Gareca – whose side have collected just one point from their opening three qualifiers – acknowledged the challenge awaiting his team.

"We pay attention to the strength of the rivals and logically it is a challenge to try to counteract the strengths of the teams that we face," he said.

"Argentina not only has Messi, but they have many good players in all their lines and we will have to play a great game to neutralise them."

Reinaldo Rueda assured Chile took no risks with their use of Alexis Sanchez against Peru, despite a public dispute with Inter over his presence in the squad.

Sanchez this week was forced to leave a Chile training session early with a muscular issue and Rueda criticised Inter's management of the attacker's physical condition.

The club have not hidden their feeling that their players should not be travelling for international matches during a pandemic, claiming the games often lead to injuries amid a congested schedule.

Rueda accused the club of a lack of respect and the Nerazzurri responded by calling his comments "unacceptable, offensive and not corresponding to reality".

Sanchez started on the bench for Friday's 2-0 victory over Peru in the CONMEBOL 2022 World Cup qualifying section and was sent on in the 84th minute, replacing Felipe Mora.

"We talked with Alexis and the medical team about his situation. If we could give him 15 or 20 minutes it was very important," said Rueda.

"He came on and played well in a key stage of the game. It was important for him to gain continuity and confidence without taking risks."

Chile's win was secured by a pair of first-half goals from captain Arturo Vidal, the first of which was a sensational 25-yard strike that flew into the top-right corner.

"He assumed the captaincy with great integrity. The dressing room respects him, because of his experience, the heart he has," said Rueda.

"Arturo's decision and daring to risk allowed us to embrace one another, but Peru never made the game or the possibility to score easy for us."

Vidal's double moved him onto 31 international goals, taking him clear of Carlos Caszely for sole ownership of fifth in La Roja's all-time scoring chart.

However, with Chile having taken one point from their opening two qualifiers it was the win that pleased him more.

"I'm happy for that [surpassing Caszely], but the most important thing is the team, fighting to go to another World Cup. That is more important than the goals," said Vidal.

"I want to congratulate my team-mates for the game we played, against a very strong team which have been playing very well in recent years.

"The first half we played much better, we looked to control the game. The second cost us a bit, we backed down a little, but the important thing was to get the three points and gain confidence."

Peru were unable to recover and record a third straight win against Chile for the first time, having triumphed in their previous two encounters 3-0.

They have now lost six of their past seven against La Roja in World Cup qualifying games.

Lionel Messi has been declared fit for Argentina's 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Paraguay and Peru by Lionel Scaloni.

It had been reported that Messi was a doubt for Thursday's meeting with Paraguay at La Bombonera after reporting for duty with an ankle issue.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner started Barcelona's 5-2 victory over Real Betis on Saturday among the substitutes but came on at half-time and scored twice.

Barca assistant coach Alfred Schreuder said the decision was made because Messi was "not fresh", but Scaloni put any lingering concerns over his fitness to bed.

"Leo trained with us normally. He has been experiencing discomfort in his ankle but it does not prevent him from playing, so for us he is fit and available," Scaloni told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We'll see if anything changes tomorrow, but in principle he's ready to play.

"The truth is that we have had quite a few problems. We still do not have every player. [Lucas] Martinez Quarta just arrived and we will see if he can train with the group this afternoon, and the rest of those who trained differently for various reasons, we hope today to see how they are so we can define the team for tomorrow.

"Without a doubt, it was a very unusual selection – the most difficult we have had. It's typical of what we are experiencing with the number of games being played and the rush there is. We hope to have them all."

Angel Di Maria returned to the Argentina set-up for the first time since last year's Copa America and Scaloni explained the reason for the absence of the Paris Saint-Germain attacker for the opening round of qualifiers in October.

"We had Nicolas Gonzalez and [Giovani] Lo Celso, who got injured after being called up. I would have been in favour of calling up Di Maria, but with everything that was happening it did not seem fair and respectful when he would only have arrived for the second game," said Scaloni.

"This time, Nico Gonzalez had very few minutes, Lo Celso had not got a rhythm and we thought we were not going to make the mistake of not bringing him in again.

"My relationship with him is perfect. We are happy to have him and he is training very well."

Peru defender Carlos Zambrano launched a scathing criticism of Neymar's behaviour, labelling the Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain star a "clown".

Neymar scored a hat-trick as Brazil twice came from behind to beat Peru 4-2 in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

In a repeat of last year's Copa America final, Neymar earned two penalties and converted both as he leapfrogged Ronaldo for the second most goals in Brazil's history.

Zambrano was sent off in the final minute of regulation, after substitute team-mate Carlos Caceda saw red three minutes earlier in Lima.

While acknowledging Neymar's quality and status within football, Zambrano – who plays for Boca Juniors – hit out at the former Barcelona forward.

"Honestly, he is a great player, one of the best in the world, but for me he is a real clown," Zambrano told American Television program 'La banda del Chino'.

"[Neymar] is aware of everything he did on the field, he is a great player but he was looking for the slightest foul.

"In the penalty area he threw himself four or five times to see if they would award him a penalty and in the end he achieved his goal, with two penalties, but they weren't."

Zambrano added: "It's Brazil and at the touch [immediately] they went to look at the VAR. Whether the play was positive or negative, they did review the images because it is Brazil."

With 64 international goals, Neymar moved past Ronaldo (62), only adrift of Pele (77) for Brazil's all-time record at the age of 28.

Neymar's treble performance against Peru was also the fourth occasion he has scored three or more goals for his country in a game, but the first time in a competitive fixture.

Ronaldo lauded countryman Neymar after being surpassed by the Paris Saint-Germain superstar to the second most goals in Brazil's history on Tuesday.

Neymar's hat-trick in a 4-2 World Cup qualifying win over Peru saw him eclipse Brazil great Ronaldo on the nation's goalscoring list.

With 64 international goals, Neymar moved past Ronaldo (62), only adrift of Pele (77) for Brazil's all-time record at the age of 28.

Ronaldo, who won two World Cups during his time with Brazil between 1994 and 2011, used social media to praise Neymar's achievement.

"All my respect for you @neymarjr!," the 44-year-old former striker wrote via Instagram on Wednesday.

"He plays a lot, gives assistance, plays, dribbles and thrashes. The sky is the limit. Fly, kid!

"What a beautiful story you are writing. A complete and increasingly mature player. Crack!... Handling the pressure off the pitch is sometimes more challenging than the ball itself.

"Now tell me: where did we come from, where did we arrive ... who is going to tell us what is impossible? Keep trusting your instincts because the talent is yours and nobody can take it from you.

"You have a lot of records to overcome and marks to leave. Proud to see a Brazilian at the top!"

Neymar's treble performance against Peru was also the fourth occasion he has scored three or more goals for his country in a game, but the first time in a competitive fixture.

Tite hailed Neymar and said the Brazil star was only getting better after the forward moved past Ronaldo on the nation's goalscoring list.

Neymar scored a hat-trick as Brazil recorded a hard-fought 4-2 win over Peru in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

With 64 international goals, he moved past Ronaldo (62), with only Pele (77) having scored more times for Brazil than the 28-year-old.

Tite was full of praise for Neymar, who netted two penalties in the win over a 10-man Peru.

"Each historic moments of the selection, each generation, it has its own values," the Brazil coach told a news conference, via Globo.

"It has Ronaldo, extraordinary phenomenon. There are Rivaldo, Romario, Bebeto, each one in his own moment. It is unfair to make comparisons in the stages of each one.

"What I can say is that Neymar has this unpredictability. He is a bow and arrow. He is the player for the assist and the finish too, better and better and with an increasing degree of maturity."

Brazil trailed twice against Peru as Andre Carrillo and Renato Tapia scored, only for their efforts to be cancelled out by Neymar and Richarlison respectively.

Neymar scored another spot-kick in the 83rd minute before sealing the win, and completing his hat-trick, in additional time to give Tite's men a second win in as many qualifiers.

"Playing against Peru is always very difficult. There is a great degree of difficulty, a history of games like that," Tite said.

"Playing here and imposing oneself is very difficult."

He added: "We took the goals in two moments that we were better. Reacting here is very difficult and we did it."

Neymar scored a hat-trick to lead Brazil to a hard-fought 4-2 win over Peru in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

The forward starred in Lima as Brazil twice came from behind to make it six points from two games to begin their campaign.

Neymar moved past Ronaldo and into outright second on Brazil's all-time goalscoring list, taking his tally to 64 – behind only Pele (77).

He first cancelled out Andre Carrillo's opener before Richarlison made it 2-2 after Renato Tapia had restored Peru's lead.

Neymar was fouled to win a penalty for the second time and he converted before later sealing the win in what was a repeat of last year's Copa America final.

Peru were also reduced to 10 men as Carlos Zambrano was sent off late.

The hosts had made a dream start, opening the scoring in the sixth minute through Carrillo.

A tame clearance from Marquinhos – who was substituted soon after with a suspected injury – fell to Carrillo to volley superbly into the corner.

Roberto Firmino should have brought Brazil level in the 13th minute, but the Liverpool forward was denied by a fine save from Pedro Gallese after Richarlison's header into his path.

But the visitors would get an equaliser from the spot, Neymar fouled before finding the bottom corner with a penalty for his 62nd international goal.

Neymar thought he had given Brazil the lead on the half-hour mark, only for his effort to be ruled out for a narrow offside decision against Richarlison.

Miguel Trauco forced Weverton into a good save with a strike from an angle early in the second half before Peru restored their lead in the 59th minute.

Tapia's volley from 25 yards took a huge deflection off Rodrigo Caio, wrongfooting Weverton and finding the back of the net to make it 2-1.

However, Brazil were level five minutes later, Richarlison forcing a Firmino header over the line after Neymar's corner.

Neymar converted another penalty in the 83rd minute to give Brazil the lead.

The star forward was fouled by Zambrano as he tried to get on the end of an Everton Ribeiro cross, before again placing his spot-kick into the bottom corner.

Making matters worse for Peru, Zambrano was sent off for an elbow on Richarlison, with Carlos Caceda having also been shown a red card while on the bench minutes earlier.

Neymar wrapped up his hat-trick in additional time, tucking away a finish from close range after Everton hit the post.

What does it mean? Brazil stay perfect

Tite's men were made to work hard, but two wins from two gives them a dream start to the gruelling campaign. But they were also put through two different encounters – a 5-0 thrashing of Bolivia followed by the test against Peru.

Neymar steals the show

Neymar was the star once more for Brazil. Along with his hat-trick, he was also involved in Brazil's other goal as his corner led to Richarlison's effort. Aged 28 and within 13 goals of Pele, Neymar seems certain to pass the all-time great on Brazil's goalscoring list.

Brazil encounter defensive issues

While they kept a clean sheet against Bolivia and in their previous win over South Korea in November last year, Brazil had conceded in six straight games before that. They had problems defensively again against Peru as Marquinhos' poor clearance was punished before his replacement, Caio, also headed into a dangerous area and threw himself at Tapia's shot, although the deflection was unfortunate.

What's next?

Brazil's campaign continues with clashes against Venezuela and Uruguay next month, while Peru will face Chile and Argentina.

Neymar drew level with Ronaldo for the second most goals for Brazil with a first-half penalty against Peru on Tuesday.

The Paris Saint-Germain star put away a penalty in the 28th minute of the World Cup qualifier in Lima.

Neymar, 28, moved onto 62 goals in 103 games for Brazil, drawing level with the great Ronaldo in second place on the nation's all-time goalscoring list.

Ronaldo scored 62 goals in 98 games for Brazil.

Only Pele, who netted 77 times, has scored more goals for Brazil than Neymar and Ronaldo.

Neymar is back in the Brazil squad for their first World Cup qualifiers, but goalkeeper Alisson is missing despite only being ruled out for a week by Liverpool with a hip injury.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed on Friday that Alisson is set to miss the Reds' next two matches against Bournemouth and Atletico Madrid after sustaining a hip problem in training.

Klopp said the situation will be clear after next week, but Brazil have left him off their list for matches against Bolivia and Peru, to be played on March 28 and April 1, respectively.

Brazil coach Tite confirmed in his news conference Alisson has been excluded from the selection due to injury.

Neymar returns, however, after he missed their previous matches in November due to fitness issues of his own, though Tite seemed frustrated when asked about the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

"Hopefully all high-level athletes are at their best and that I have to answer 300 questions about why one player and not the other," he said.

"I want to have difficult decisions all the time, that everyone is in good form, Neymar included."

Notable inclusions are Bruno Guimaraes, Felipe and Everton Ribeiro.

Lyon midfielder Bruno Guimaraes is in line for his first cap, Felipe is hoping to get only his second and Flamengo's Everton Ribeiro has not represented the Selecao since the 2015 Copa America.

"In the case of Everton, he returns because he has great form in his creative process," Tite said. "Bruno Guimaraes had a great championship last year for Athletico Paranaense, we followed him in the Under-23s and in Lyon, this consolidates, strengthens.

"It is likewise with Felipe. We followed two games that were emblematic of Atletico Madrid, against Liverpool and Valencia."

Brazil squad in full:

Weverton (Palmeiras), Ederson (Manchester City), Ivan (Ponte Preta); Dani Alves (Sao Paulo), Danilo (Juventus), Renan Lodi (Atletico Madrid), Alex Sandro (Juventus), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Felipe (Atletico Madrid), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain); Arthur (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Bruno Guimaraes (Lyon), Philippe Coutinho (Bayern Munich), Everton Ribeiro (Flamengo), Fabinho (Liverpool); Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Barbosa (Flamengo), Everton (Gremio), Richarlison (Everton), Bruno Henrique (Flamengo).

Darwin Nunez came off the bench to rescue a late 1-1 draw for Uruguay against Peru in their international friendly in Lima.

Christofer Gonzales' header gave Peru a 34th-minute lead after Uruguay were reduced to 10-men when Martin Caceres was sent off on Tuesday.

But Nunez headed in Matias Vina's cross against the run of play to earn La Celeste an unlikely draw after victory over the same opposition four days ago at Estadio Centenario in Montevideo.

Tuesday's match came to life in the 26th minute after a scrappy opening, when experienced defender Caceres was shown a red card for two cautions within a minute.

The former Barcelona and Juventus defender was booked for his initial challenge on Miguel Trauco before receiving a second yellow for his protests to Colombian referee Carlos Herrera.

Uruguay head coach Oscar Tabarez reacted by introducing Giovanni Gonzalez for Maxi Gomez, the visitors conceded moments later when Peru had their first notable chance of the game.

Luis Advincula beat his marker down the right and whipped in a teasing cross for Gonzalez to head home unmarked.

Peru had defeated Uruguay 5-4 on penalties in June's Copa America fixture en route to a final defeat by Brazil and they continued to look comfortable, as La Celeste lacked the sharpness shown in Friday's 1-0 win.

But two substitutes linked up for La Celeste as Vina's cross found Nunez, who had only been on the pitch for five minutes, to head in and have the final say for the visitors.

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