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Messi scores great; Argentina make their Copa debut

Argentina‘s Lionel Messi scored one of his signature free kicks in the first half, however Eduardo Vargas balanced for Chile at the start of the Copa America in Rio de Janeiro on Monday even at 1-1.

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Messi rolled a great free kick into the corner of Claudio Bravo‘s net from 25 meters after 33 minutes. The goal made him Argentina’s top scorer of all time in competitive matches with 38 goals, overtaking Gabriel Batistuta with 37 goals. Messi has scored a total of 73 goals for his country.

Chile equalized 13 minutes in the second half when Vargas headed home after the rebound Arturo Vidalhis penalty was tipped off onto the crossbar Emiliano Martinez.

Messi continued to create opportunities until the end of the game, but his teammates showed the same difficulty scoring goals as they did in the 2-2 draw with Colombia in a World Cup qualifier in Barranquilla last week.

“This game got complicated for us,” said an exhausted Messi afterwards. “We had to stay calm, control possession and play faster. The penalty also changed the game.

“We wanted to start winning. It was important to start with a win. We played against difficult opponents. Uruguay will be complicated too. Two tough games to start this Copa America.”

“We had six or seven clear chances and we missed them and Chile got a good draw,” said Argentina goalkeeper Martinez. “The chances we made today were enough to win 4 or 5: 1.”

Chile’s Vidal said a draw despite Messi’s performance is a good result for his team, which is in transition with new coach Martin Lasarte and the missing star Alexis Sanchez.

“Leo always makes you change your formation. Thank god we drew,” said Vidal. “We’re still regaining our intensity and changing the system a bit. It was a tough game; we tried to keep the order.”

The game was played in an abandoned Nilton Santos stadium, the venue for track and field competitions at the 2016 Olympics, with both sides stuck on a poor pitch.

The result extended Argentina’s unbeaten streak to 14 games under coach Lionel Scaloni, a sequence that goes back to the 2019 Copa America semi-finals.

Paraguay accept Bolivia in the second group A game later on Monday, with Uruguay, the fifth team in the section, made their debut against Argentina on Friday.

Copa America was delayed in Brazil after Colombia and Argentina were dropped as co-hosts. Many health experts have criticized the move to a country where the COVID-19 death toll is nearing 490,000.

The late Argentine legend Diego Maradona was honored before the game. CONMEBOL announced that it will present an audiovisual show in tribute to Maradona, who died on November 25th. A 3D animation for the song “Live Is Life” featured a holographic image of Maradona doing keepie-upies while his shirt changed color to reflect the clubs he was playing for.

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