Argentina started their Copa América 2015 campaign in Chile with a disappointing draw against Paraguay in Group B. Kun Agüero opened the scoring in the first half following a mistake at the back by Samudio. The Paraguayan defender’s nightmare continued when he brought down Di María after 35 minutes. Leo Messi stepped up to slot home the spot kick for his 46th goal in 98 matches with thealbiceleste. An improved Paraguay side after the break pulled one back with a great strike from Nelson Valdez, and in the final minute of normal time a searing drive from substitute Lucas Barrios gave Ramón Diaz’s team a deserved point. The draw puts Argentina under pressure as they seek to claim the Copa América title for the first time since 1993. Their next game in Group B is on Tuesday against holders Uruguay at 20.30pm (local time).
First half lead and Messi amongst the goals
Leo Messi captained the side with fellow Barça treble hero Javier Mascherano also in the starting line up for Argentina’s debut in the world’s oldest international football tournament. Paraguay, runners-up to Uruguay in the last Copa América in 2011, were looking for their first ever win over their neighbours in the competition. As expected, Argentina took charge of the contest right from the star. However, initially chances were few and far between. Javier Mascherano came closest to breaking the deadlock in the early stages when on 18 minutes his shot from outside the area was deflected just wide of Antony Silva’s left hand post. Messi, looking for his first ever title with the national side, looked hungry from the kick off and when the opening goal finally came, it was inevitable that the man nicknamed ‘la Pulga’ in his native Argentina would play a part. Messi ran at the Paraguayan defence with purpose and when he lost the ball he immediately put defender Samudio under pressure, forcing him to play a poor back pass right into the path of Kun Agüero. The Manchester City striker kept his composure to effortlessly round keeper Silva and put Argentina 1-0 up in the La Serena Stadium. Messi was involved again in his side’s second on 36 minutes. His pass found Di Maria in the penalty area and the winger was felled in the box by Samudio. Referee Roldán pointed straight to the spot and Messi nervelessly placed his penalty right into the corner to make it 2-0 at half time to Argentina.
In the second half Argentina had chances to extend their advantage with Leo Messi denied at the near post by Silva. Martino’s team would come to rue those missed opportunities. On the hour mark former Valencia striker Nelson Valdez burst into life. First he forced Argentine keeper Romero into an excellent save and then just 30 seconds later he fired home from outside the box to put Paraguay right back into the game. The contest opened up and both sides enjoyed numerous chances on the break, Romero making another great save to prevent Aguilar from equalising. Silva shone also in goal for Paraguay, making good stops from first Pastore and then Di Maria. Argentina appeared fragile defensively in the second half and that was borne out by a 90th minute equaliser for Diaz’s team. A simple free kick into the box was nodded down by Ortigoza and Lucas Barrios was given ample time to hit a low shot past Romero from the edge of the area.