An impressive performance from Messi capped with a double, all from the spot,plus goals from Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Maxi Rodriguez made sure Argentina wallop Paraguay by 5-2.
It was Argentina who took the the lead in the 12th minute from the spot when Sergio Aguero was brought down in the box by Paraguay's on-rushing Roberto Fernandez after a swift counter attack leaving Paraguay's back four exposed.
Messi stepped forward and converted the penalty expertly to put his side in front. A Sergio Romero howler just five minutes after the goal brought the game back on level terms.
A beautiful string of passes between Messi and Aguero saw the latter through on goal to put his side back in front of the game. Aguero then saw his goal correctly ruled out for offside.
Goals from Angel Di Maria, Lionel Messi, gave Argentina a three goal lead before the hour mark. Roque Santa Cruz later in the game scored a consolation goal to bring the score to 4-2. But a late goal from Maxi Rodriguez put the game to bed for the Argentines.
Argentina is now seven points clear of fifth-placed Uruguay with just two matches remaining. They now join hosts Brazil as the two South American teams with a place booked at the 2014 tournament.
By Godson Ameyaw