Argentina kicks off their Copa America campaign against neighbors Chile at the Estadio Nilton Santos here tonight. They are coming on the back of a 13-match unbeaten run that stretches back to July 2019. Their last defeat in an international match came against Brazil in the semifinals of 2019 Copa America.
Chile, ranked 19th in the world, are coming on the back of a stuttering first phase of FIFA WC qualifiers. They could only garner six points in as many games, languishing in 7th place.
Meanwhile, Argentina are placed 2nd in the CONMEBOL qualifying group with 3 wins and 3 draws.
A history of the rivalry
Argentina has faced off Chile 93 times across all competitions, winning 61 of them. Chile ended up victorious on 8 occasions while the other 24 ended in stalemates. Recent history suggests it’s been a very close-fought fixture with Chile getting the better of Argentina in two Copa finals. On the other hand, Argentina has often ended up victorious in WC qualifiers or Copa America group stage games. Their most recent encounter in the ongoing WC qualifiers ended in a 1-1 draw as Alexis Sanchez canceled out Messi’s opener from the spot.
Five key aspects to look forward to
- Argentina are one of the favorites coming into the tournament. They would certainly want to make amends from last time out and start off on a positive note. They’ll be desperate to win their first major international trophy since 1993.
- Chile has always been a tough nut to crack, especially when they line up against Argentina. Their twin Copa wins in 2015 & 2016 have come against La Albiceleste. They would want to throw the disappointments of WC qualifiers behind them and start afresh.
- Argentina head coach Scaloni would bank on a midfield trio of Giovanni Lo Celso, Rodrigo de Paul, and Leandro Paredes. Angel di Maria and the stalwart Lionel Messi shall provide the much-needed width in the 4-3-3 setup.
- Chile’s forward line would be led by Eduardo Vargas as old guard Alexis Sanchez is ruled out of the group stage games due to a foot injury. Arturo Vidal and Charles Aranguiz would act as the double pivot in Martin Lasarte’s system.
- Both the teams would look forward to finish in the top two of Group B to have an easier run in the knockouts.
Leandro Paredes vs Arturo Vidal
This midfield battle will be a treat to watch, with both players having a tendency to play physical games. They’ll be the architect-in-chief for their respective sides, creating chances and destroying opponent attacks. Paredes will be aided by Lo Celso and de Paul in the Argentine midfield. Vidal, on the other hand, will receive support from Aranguiz and Pulgar to move forward in attacks.
Lionel Messi vs Gary Medel
The pair had squared off against each other in a nasty encounter in the 2019 Copa America, where both were sent off. They’ll go up against each other once again in a crunch encounter. For the record, Messi could only manage two goals in the last eight games against Chile, both from the spot. It’ll once again be a tough ask for him to unlock the resolute Chilean defense led by Gary Medel.