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WATCH: Lionel Messi scores hat trick off the bench

Copa America Centenario fans had to wait a few days longer than expected to see Lionel Messi in action. But once the Argentine icon took the pitch at Soldier Field on Friday, he sure didn't disappoint.

Coming on as a 61st-minute substitute after sitting out Argentina's opener against Chile with back and rib injuries, Messi recorded a stunning hat trick as the Albiceleste ran up the score in a 5-0 victory over Panama.

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The five-time Ballon d'Or winner opened his account seven minutes after entering, benefiting from a failed Panama clearance that ricocheted off the arms of Gonzalo Higuain and fell right into the path of Messi, who converted from close range.

The fireworks truly arrived in the 78th minute, when Messi curled a beautiful 30-yard free kick inside Jaime Penedo's near post. And he completed the hat trick nine minutes later, collecting a pass at the top of the box, cleverly creating space for himself and again firing past Penedo.

Check out all three goals — which launched Messi into a tie with Brazil playmaker Philippe Coutinho for the tournament's Golden Boot lead — right here: