Copa América pay spectacular effect-laden Diego Maradona tribute as Lionel Messi scores stunning free-kick

Sports

A spectacular tribute was paid to Argentina legend Diego Maradona before the nation’s opening game of the 2021 Copa América on Monday night.

Maradona, an Argentine icon and widely considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, died after suffering heart failure in November last year. Before Argentina’s 1-1 draw against Chile at Estádio Nilton Santos in Rio de Janiero, an extraordinary light show with futuristic effects paid tribute to “El Pelusa.” It saw a holographic version of Maradona kick the ball to himself in the center of the pitch while the shirt he wore changed between the teams he used to play for, from Barcelona to Napoli to Newell’s Old Boys. It also paid homage to some iconic moments from his glittering career, all framed in the iconic No. 10 he used to wear, in particular the wonder goal he scored against England in the 1986 World Cup.

Argentina was making its first major tournament appearance since Maradona’s passing, and in its game against Chile, it paid the perfect tribute to him, with Lionel Messi — seen as Maradona’s heir — scoring a glorious free-kick. With 33 minutes played and the scores level, Messi curled home from just outside the box, with goalkeeper Claudio Bravo unable to stop it from nestling in the corner. It was Messi’s 73rd international goal. However, despite missing star attacker Alexis Sanchez, Chile came on strong in the second half, winning a penalty 12 minutes after the break. Aston Villa keeper Emiliano Martinez was able to tip Arturo Vidal’s attempt onto the bar, only for Eduardo Vargas to head home the rebound. Although the draw extends Argentina’s unbeaten run to 14 games under coach Lionel Scaloni, it would have been hoping for a stronger start to its Copa América campaign. “This match got complicated for us,” Messi said afterwards. “We needed to be calm, have control of possession and play more quickly. The penalty changed the match, too.”

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