Lionel Messi scored one of his trademark free kicks in the first half but Eduardo Vargas equalised for Chile as their Copa América Group A opener in Rio de Janeiro ended in a 1-1 draw.
With 33 minutes played at Estádio Nilton Santos, Messi stepped up to curl a superb free kick into the corner of Claudio Bravo’s net from 25 yards out. The breakthrough came after a strong start from Argentina, with forwards Lautaro Martínez and Nicolás González missing early chances.
Chile were missing the injured Alexis Sánchez but rallied in the second half and won a penalty 12 minutes into the second half, awarded by VAR. Arturo Vidal’s spot-kick was tipped on to the crossbar by Emiliano Martínez but Eduardo Vargas reacted quickest to head home the rebound.
Argentina pushed for victory late in the game but their opponents held firm defensively. The Blackburn forward Ben Brereton, whose mother was born in Chile, came off the bench to make his international debut for La Roja.
“This match got complicated for us,” a tired Messi said afterwards. “We needed to be calm, have control of possession and play more quickly. The penalty changed the match, too.” The result extends Argentina’s unbeaten run to 14 games under coach Lionel Scaloni, although four of their last five matches have ended in draws.
Later on Monday, Paraguay take on Bolivia in their Group A game in Goiânia. Argentina’s next match is against Uruguay in Brasilia on Saturday, with Chile facing Bolivia in Cuiabá on Friday.
In other news, Brazil’s Ministry of Health said on Monday that 31 players and delegation members had tested positive for Covid-19 by Sunday, the first day of the 10-nation tournament. The news comes amid widespread criticism of Conmebol’s decision to move the tournament to Brazil at short notice.