Argentina’s Lionel Messi scored one of his trademark free kicks in the first half, but Chile’s Eduardo Vargas equalised in the second to tie the game at 1-1 in their Copa America opener on Monday in Rio de Janeiro (June 14). When the two teams met earlier this month in a World Cup qualifier, Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo acrobatically saved one Messi free kick and another hit the crossbar, but the Barcelona player went one better this time, curling a superb set piece into the corner of the net from 25 metres out after 33 minutes.
Despite beating Argentina on penalties in the Copa America finals in 2015 and 2016, Chile had never beaten their neighbours in this tournament over 90 minutes, and their task became even more difficult after Messi opened the scoring. Despite being without Alexis Sanchez due to injury, the Chileans came back to equalise 13 minutes into the second half, thanks to a VAR consultation that resulted in a penalty kick.
Emiliano Martinez superbly tipped Arturo Vidal’s powerful shot onto the bar, but Vargas followed up to head home the rebound.
The game was played in a deserted Nilton Santos stadium, which hosted track and field events at the 2016 Olympic Games, with both teams getting bogged down by a poor pitch. Chile will be content with a point rather than Argentina, who has now drawn four of their last five games.
The best angle of Messi’s freekick pic.twitter.com/jvNfNuNz5M
— TM (@TotalLeoMessi) June 14, 2021
The Argentines had more chances to win all three points, with Messi always dangerous but Stuttgart winger Nicolas Gonzalez profligate in front of goal.
“We had six or seven clear chances that we missed, and Chile got a good draw,” keeper Martinez said. “The chances we created today were enough for us to win by four or five points.”
Chile, on the other hand, is nothing if not resilient, and they defended tenaciously throughout, particularly in the final moments when their opponents threw balls into the box in search of a winner.
Later on Monday, Paraguay will face Bolivia in the second Group A game, while Uruguay, the fifth team in the section, will make its debut on Friday.
(with Reuters inputs)