Argentina and Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has often been criticised for failing to lead his country to a major trophy, but the Barcelona star was on top of his game against Chile.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner was at his creative best and did all he could to inspire his team to a win. In the 33rd minute, he scored a wonderful free-kick to give Argentina the lead but that was not enough to earn La Albiceleste the win, as no other Argentina player rose to the fore.
Messi scored one of his trademark free kicks in the first half but Eduardo Vargas equalised for Chile in the second to leave honours even at 1-1 in their Copa America opener in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.
When the two sides met in a World Cup qualifier earlier this month, Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo acrobatically saved one Messi free kick and another hit the woodwork but this time the Barcelona player went one better, curling a superb set piece into the corner of the net from 25 meters out after 33 minutes.
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.
“When we were in advantage we could not sustain the result, the playing field did not help us and we lacked control of the ball and to play faster, which they did when they managed to draw level. I did not see the penalty, but clearly, it changed the game,” said Messi during post-match briefing.
“I think the penalty kick and when they draw gave them peace of mind, they started to handle the ball, we couldn’t have it and the game got complicated for us,” he added.
“We wanted to start winning, it was important to get the victory,” Messi said. “We played against a very difficult opponent and now we will do it against Uruguay, another very difficult and even game.”
“They are two very tough games to start the cup, that’s why we wanted to start winning today.”
Chile will be happier with a point than Argentina, who have now drawn four of their last five games.