The champion of the 2022 World Cup, Lionel Messi, began the qualifiers for the 2026 World Cup by setting a new record. He scored two goals for Argentina in the first half of the match against Peru in Lima and reached the milestone of 31 goals in the World Cup qualifiers, surpassing Luis Suárez as the competition’s top scorer.
Here are the top scorers in the South American qualifiers:
Lionel Messi (Argentina) – 31 goals in 63 games
Luis Suárez (Uruguay) – 29 goals in 62 games
Marcelo Moreno (Bolivia) – 22 goals in 62 games
Alexis Sánchez (Chile) – 20 goals in 59 games
Hernán Crespo (Argentina) – 19 goals in 33 games
Marcelo Salas (Chile) – 18 goals in 32 games
Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) – 18 goals in 49 games
Ivan Zamorano (Chile) – 17 goals in 24 games
Arturo Vidal (Chile) – 17 goals in 52 games
Neymar (Brazil) – 16 goals in 28 games
Joaquin Botero (Bolivia) – 16 goals in 31 games
Agustin Delgado (Ecuador) – 16 goals in 32 games
Until the start of this edition of the qualifiers, Luis Suárez was the all-time top scorer in the South American tournament, with 29 goals in 62 games for the Uruguay national team. Messi now holds the record with 31 goals in 63 appearances for the Argentine national team in these qualifiers.
Although he is the overall top scorer in South American qualifiers, Messi has never finished as the top scorer in a single edition. His best performance was in the campaign for the 2014 World Cup, where he scored 10 goals, while Suárez scored 11.
The last player from the Argentine national team to be the top scorer of the tournament was Hernán Crespo in 2002, with 10 goals (tied with Agustin Delgado of Ecuador).
Messi is also the all-time top scorer for a South American national team, with 106 goals in 178 games for Argentina. In addition, he became the player with the most World Cup appearances (26 in five editions) during the tournament in Qatar in 2022. In August, Messi achieved the record for the most titles in the history of football, with a total of 42 titles.
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