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Messi eyes another milestone after Argentina success

updated 2:55 PM EDT, Sat March 23, 2013
Lionel Messi was on target as Argentina defeated Venezuela 3-0 in Buenos Aires.
Lionel Messi was on target as Argentina defeated Venezuela 3-0 in Buenos Aires.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lionel Messi scored his 32nd international goal to help Argentina defeat Venezuela
  • Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain also on target in 3-0 World Cup qualifier win
  • Colombia looks good for Brazil 2014 after thrashing Bolivia
  • Luis Suarez on target in Uruguay's 1-1 draw with Paraguay

(CNN) -- Lionel Messi is just two goals behind Diego Maradona's international total of 34 after guiding Argentina ever closer to qualifying for next year's World Cup in Brazil.

The four-time World Player of the Year netted from the penalty spot as Argentina eased to a 3-0 win over Venezuela as it remained four points clear at the top of the South American group.

Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain scored twice to take him to 10 goals for the qualifying campaign, but it was Messi who stole the show once again.

Read: Magical Messi shows no sign of stopping

The 25-year-old has repeatedly vowed to win the one prize to have eluded him so far in his astonishing career- the World Cup.

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Not since 1986 when Maradona led Argentina to glory has the country won the tournament -- a statistic that Messi is desperate to change.

After an incredible 2012 where he scored 91 goals for club and country, surpassing the previous record of 85 by Germany's Gerd Muller, Messi looks set to break new ground once again.

This season alone he has scored 61 goals in 51 matches for club and country with 55 of those coming in 43 matches for Barcelona and six in eight appearances for Argentina.

Messi still has a way to go until he passes Gabriel Batistuta, who holds Argentina's all-time record with 56 goals from 78 matches.

But his priority is success in Brazil next year -- a target which is looking eminently possible.

"We have a forward line that can be considered among the best in the world," Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella told reporters.

"Venezuela are a tough team, very compact, who know what they want. What happened was that Argentina played very well, especially in the first half and were very superior."

Messi will hope to move past Maradona on Tuesday when Argentina head to the high altitude city of La Paz to face a Bolivia side which won its last meeting between the two 6-1.

Read: 'Tiger' Falcao prowls for goals

Elsewhere, Colombia looks set to end its 16-year wait to play in a World Cup after thrashing Bolivia 5-0.

MacNelly Torres gave Colombia a first half lead with Carlos Valdez, Teofilo Guttierez, Radamel Falcao and Pablo Armero all scoring after the break.

Jose Pekerman's side is four points adrift of leader Argentina but has played a game less.

Liverpool's Luis Suarez hit his eighth goal of the qualifying campaign to help Uruguay secure a 1-1 draw against Paraguay to leave it in fourth position.

Peru, which has not played at a World Cup since 1982, remains in the hunt following a 1-0 win against Chile following Jefferson Farfan's strike.

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