Argentina’s Lionel Messi scored one of his trademark free kicks in the first half but Eduardo Vargas equalised for Chile to leave honours even at 1-1 in their Copa America opener in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.
– Copa America bracket and fixtures schedule
Messi curled a superb free kick into the corner of Claudio Bravo’s net from 25 metres after 33 minutes.
Chile equalised 13 minutes into the second half when Vargas followed up to head home the rebound after Arturo Vidal’s penalty was tipped on to the bar by Emiliano Martinez.
Messi continued to create opportunities until the end of the match, but his teammates showed the same difficulty to deliver goals as they did in the 2-2 draw at Colombia in a World Cup qualifier in Barranquilla last week.
“This match got complicated to us,” an exhausted Messi said after the match. “We needed to be calm, have the control of the possession and play more quickly. The penalty changed the match, too.”
“We had six or seven clear chances and we missed them and Chile got a good draw,” said keeper Martinez. “The chances we made today were enough to win by four- or five-one.”
The game was played in a deserted Nilton Santos stadium, the site of the track and field events at the 2016 Olympic Games, with both sides getting bogged down on a poor pitch.
The result extended Argentina’s unbeaten run to 14 games under coach Lionel Scaloni, a sequence dating back to the 2019 Copa America semifinal.
Paraguay take on Bolivia in the second Group A game later on Monday, with Uruguay, the fifth team in the section, debuting on Friday.
Copa America was moved at late notice to Brazil after Colombia and Argentina were dropped as co-hosts. Many health experts criticized the move to a country where the COVID-19 death toll is nearing 490,000.
The late Argentina legend Diego Maradona was honored before the match. CONMEBOL announced that they would present an audiovisual show paying homage to Maradona, who died on November 25th. A 3D animation showed Maradona doing keepie-uppies while uniforms of the clubs he played were changing at the sound of song ‘Live is Life’.