Lionel Messi scored his first international hat trick, leading Argentina over Switzerland 3-1 in an exhibition game Wednesday night.

The 24-year-old put Argentina ahead in the 20th minute when he ran at the defense and finished off a return pass from Sergio Aguero, leaving goalkeeper Diego Benaglio helpless. Messi got his second goal in the 88th minute when he teased goalkeeper Marco Woelfli out of position and chipped the ball off the crossbar and in. Messi then converted a penalty kick in stoppage time after Francois Affolter tripped Gonzolo Higuain.

''It's very difficult to say how good he is,'' Switzerland defender Philippe Senderos said. ''You know that every time he touches the ball, something special is going to happen.''

A three-time FIFA player of the year, Messi has 22 international goals. At the club level he has had 16 hat tricks for Barcelona, including a pair of four-goal games.

''It's a blessing to have him in the team,'' Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said, dismissing suggestions Messi does not reproduce his Barcelona form when on national duty.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland's 20-year-old star, tied the score in the 49th minute with a sweeping left-footed shot.

''I'm disappointed with the result,'' Switzerland coach Ottmat Hitzfeld said. ''It's always a huge pleasure to see Messi. Except if you're the coach of the opposing team.''