Copa América: Lionel Messi free-kick cancelled out as Chile hold Argentina

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 the 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 the 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 bar 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. “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 Lionel Scaloni, although four of their last five matches have ended in draws.

In the later game, Paraguay went behind to an early penalty but fought back against 10 men in the second half to beat Bolivia 3-1.

Bolivia took the lead in the 10th minute from the spot but the game changed in the seconds before half-time when their 19-year-old forward Jaume Cuéllar was sent off for a second yellow card offence.

Paraguay equalised with a volley from Kaku after 62 minutes and then Ángel Romero put them 2-1 ahead three minutes later when he scored from close range after Rubén Cordano could only parry a goal-bound header.

Romero then made it 3-1 with 10 minutes left when he finished smartly after a quick break. The result leaves Paraguay top of Group A, ahead of Argentina and Chile.

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.