COPA AMÉRICA 2021
Messi points to pitch as Argentina begin Copa America with draw
Lionel Messi spoke to the media following Argentina's 1-1 draw with Chile on Monday.
Lionel Messi said Argentina lacked control while bemoaning the state of the pitch in their Copa America draw against Chile.
Pitch troubles prevented Argentina flow, says Messi
Messi scored a stunning free-kick in the first half but it was not enough as Chile salvaged a 1-1 draw in the Group A encounter in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.
Superstar captain Messi converted his first free-kick for Argentina since November 2016 – after 1,672 days – after curling his set-piece past Claudio Bravo in the 33rd minute.
1 - Lionel Messi has scored a direct free kick for Argentina after 1672 days: his last free kick goal had been against Colombia, on 15 November 2016, in the WC Qualifiers. Specialist. pic.twitter.com/VcBT7Jdeae— OptaJoao (@OptaJoao) June 14, 2021
Chile star Arturo Vidal was awarded a penalty for a rash challenge from Nicolas Tagliafico after referee Wilmar Roldan checked the pitch-side monitor and although the midfielder's penalty was brilliantly tipped against the crossbar by Emiliano Martinez, Eduardo Vargas nodded in following up approaching the hour mark.
"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," Messi, who scored his third Copa free-kick, said post-match.
"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."
Argentina – runners-up in 2015 and 2016 – had their best expected goals (xG of 2.82) in a game under head coach Lionel Scaloni in World Cup qualifiers or Copa America, but they scored only one direct free-kick goal.
"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 goalkeeper Bravo added: "[Messi] has a punch that not everyone has, a different precision than the rest.
"In the [World Cup] qualifiers it was my turn to come out victorious and today I had to suffer it, but football is like that and you enjoy when you have great players on the other side and who put difficult challenges on you, as well as my mission is to make things difficult for your opponent.
"I think the essential thing is that today we compete very well and this fills us with enthusiasm for what lies ahead."
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