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Copa America

Five key highlights from Argentina's Copa America opener against Chile

Published at :June 15, 2021 at 10:38 PM
Modified at :July 21, 2021 at 12:40 AM
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Sudesh Baniya

Lionel Messi gave his team the lead with a sumptuous free-kick.

Argentina kicked off their Copa America 2021 campaign against Chile, an opposition they know for all the wrong reasons. Despite never losing against the Reds in regulation time, Argentina have succumbed to the same rivals twice in two successive Copa America finals. The match ended all square, with both sides managing a goal each.

Argentina created plenty of goalscoring chances, but failed to score more than once and start the tournament with a win. Chile, on the other hand, lost yet another opportunity to register their first victory against their arch-rivals. Eduardo Vargas equalized for Chile in the 57th minute after Lionel Messi put Argentina ahead with a spectacular free-kick in the first half.

Argentina created plenty of goal-scoring chances in the first half but Chile's intensity in the opening minutes of the second half caught them off guard. As Argentina and Lionel Messi eye their first Copa America title since 1993, this game can be looked upon to estimate their journey in this year's tournament.

5. Lionel Messi's brilliance

Lionel Messi netted his 73rd goal in Argentina colours

It was yet another day at the office for Messi, who netted a beautiful curler past ex-teammate Claudio Bravo. Argentina, despite creating three big chances within the opening 20 minutes, were struggling to score. But, Messi's free-kick gave them the lead in the 33rd minute.

Messi curled the ball into the top left corner out of reach of a fully-stretched Claudio Bravo. Argentina broke the deadlock with Messi's free-kick after struggling to finish in open play .

Against an opposition that has caused problems to Argentina in recent fixtures, Messi dropped deep to receive the ball from the back. The Barcelona captain was heavily involved in the build-up play and also attempted shots himself. In addition to four key passes, Messi tested Bravo twice with his left foot, only for the Chilean to step up and deny him.

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4. Argentina's lively left side

With Messi playing deep, Argentina's left-hand side was lively in terms of movement and creation. Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico teamed up with Giovanni Lo Celso to make overlapping runs and plant crosses for Nico Gonzalez and Lautaro Martinez in the middle.

Most of Argentina's attacks came from the left due to diagonal balls coming from the middle, where Messi was operating. As a result, La Albiceleste managed eight shots in the first half, compared to Chile's one.

Argentina's intensity continued in the later stages of the second half, but they lacked the finishing product. As a result, despite having 18 shots on goal, the South American giants found the net only once. In comparison, Chile had five shots on target and they scored one goal.

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3. Chile's resistance

The Chileans were resistant, especially after a shaky start in the first half. The Argentine forwards missed a couple of big chances early on and the Chilean defence looked helpless in the opening minutes. However, throughout the second half, it was Chile's resistance that kept them in the game.

After the equalizer, Argentina attacked relentlessly, playing on the transition to hit Chile on the break. But, Chile maintained their shape to limit space in front of goal for La Albiceleste. Guillermo Maripan and Gary Medel were the standouts in the Chile backline.

The pair notched up three blocked shots and five clearances between them. Medel's block to deny Messi's shot in mid-air was one of the highlights of the match.

2. A game of goalkeepers

Claudio Bravo has always brought out his best against Argentina

Claudio Bravo has always been a trustworthy figure in the national team jersey. Bravo made four saves on the night, denying Messi and Co. obvious goalscoring opportunities. The game saw Bravo playing exceptionally well against Argentina yet again, after two massive final wins on penalties.

Emiliano Martinez, on the other side, was also instrumental between the sticks in his Copa America debut. Despite being relatively free compared to Bravo, the Aston Villa goalkeeper superbly saved Arturo Vidal's penalty. But, unfortunately, the rebound fell for Vargas to score. Despite conceding, Martinez's performance was above average whenever he was called into action.

1. Chilean counter to Argentina's struggles

Argentina dominated the entirety of the first half, thanks to their fluid attacking movement. However, a solid Claudio Bravo was shielded by the Chilean defence. But, Argentina's own lapses in front of goal left them only one ahead going into the second half.

The first 20 minutes of the second half saw Chile pushing Argentina on the back foot. The Reds attacked with pace and Argentina struggled when they were called to defend. In addition, the team looked rustic transitioning from the back, highlighting their obvious defensive weaknesses again. In the same sequence, Chile managed to earn a penalty and score off the rebound.

Argentina couldn't restore the lead, thanks to a solid Chilean defensive display afterward. In addition, their lack of speed in both transition and in front of goal added to their desperation. However, it was during this period that Argentina really blew their chances of starting their campaign with a win.

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