Chile v Argentina: Messi ready to build on important win against competitive La Roja

By Sports Desk June 24, 2024

Lionel Messi expects a difficult test against Chile as Argentina look to maintain their unbeaten start at the 2024 Copa America. 

Argentina play their penultimate Group A match at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford on Wednesday against La Roja, having beaten Canada on matchday 1. 

The Albiceleste impressed in their opener against the Canucks, registering 19 shots on goal, surpassing the combined total of 18 shots taken by Chile and Peru in the other Group A meeting.

Messi, who broke the Copa America appearance record during that match, expressed the importance of their victory in the opening game but knows his side are in for a competitive encounter with Ricardo Gareca's side. 

“Yeah, we've always known how tough the opening game is. The most important thing is to get off to a winning start," Messi said. 

“It's not happened previously under [Lionel] Scaloni, so that calms things down because you suffer a lot when you start off losing.

“But we always play the same way. We're in a difficult group, and now we have to face a very good and competitive team.

“Ricardo Gareca's arrival has given them something else as well.

“So yeah, we're happy to have started with a win, but we're now going to rest and prepare for Chile.

“We know that we have to be a team and achieve our goals in the right way.

“We know that the only path to do so is in our own way. So we will continue with the same humility and desire to win.”

Meanwhile, Chile will be hopeful of improving their recent record against Argentina, having failed to beat their opponents since the Copa America final in June 2016, though they needed penalties to get the victory on that occasion.

La Roja kickstarted their Copa America campaign with a goalless draw against Peru at the AT&T Stadium in Texas, managing to register just one shot on target from the 11 they attempted - the joint-fewest the Blanquirroja have faced in the competition since the debut of goalkeeper Pedro Gallese in the competition (2015).

Gareca's side have failed to score in their last three games in the Copa America, a run of 378 minutes without a goal.

However, the 66-year-old believes their lack of threat in front of goal is not an issue ahead of their showdown with the Albiceleste. 

"We were not able to create many plays and execute them. We were under a lot of pressure, and sometimes we were not accurate in our passes," said Gareca, who became the 10th coach to have managed different teams in consecutive editions of the competition.

"I'm not concerned. I think this will be useful for us to analyse our game to improve our game.

"We, of course, hoped to win the match. But I think it's very important that we're able to take a point, and we still have two matches ahead of us."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chile - Victor Davila

Victor Davila will be hoping to rediscover the goal-scoring touch he experienced before the Copa America ahead of coming up against the World Cup champions. 

Having scored three goals and provided one assist in his previous three international appearances heading into their opener against Peru, the CSKA Moscow striker showed glimpses of his attacking threat. 

The 26-year-old has the joint-most shots (three) and the most touches in the opposition box (five), but failed to register a shot on target, coming off in the 65th minute with an expected goals (xG) total of 0.22. 

Argentina - Lionel Messi 

Messi has played in 35 out of 36 matches for Argentina in the Copa America since his debut. The only match he missed was a 2-1 group stage victory against Tuesday's opponents in 2016.

The Inter Miami star registered an assist for Lautaro Martinez's late goal, reaching 50 direct goal involvements in official competitions for club and country on U.S. soil (30 goals and 20 assists).

However, Messi will be hoping to add to his 108 international goals at the MetLife Stadium. Should he score, it would take his Copa America tally to 14, level with Chile's Eduardo Vargas and Peru's Paolo Guerrero, three away from equalling Norberto Mendez's record (17). 

 

MATCH PREDICTION: ARGENTINA WIN 

The Opta supercomputer is heavily backing Argentina to maintain their unbeaten start at the 2024 Copa America. They won 66.5% of the pre-match simulations, while Chile won just 15.1%. 

Argentina come up against a familiar foe in Chile at the tournament, with this their 30th meeting at the Copa America. La Roja are the third-most frequent opponent for Lionel Scaloni's side, behind only Brazil (34) and Uruguay (32).

La Albiceleste remain unbeaten against Chile in these encounters (21 wins, eight draws). However, La Roja clinched their two titles by defeating Argentina in penalty shootouts in the 2015 and 2016 finals.

Since 2011, Argentina have the fewest losses (two) among teams that have played in more than one Copa America edition. La Albiceleste also boasts the most victories in the tournament during this period (18).

Chile, however, will be looking to upset the odds. La Roja are looking for their first win in games between the two teams since June 2016. During that time, Argentina have outscored the Chilean side 7-4, something that will need to change to increase their chances of progression. 

OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

Chile - 15.1%

Argentina - 66.5%

Draw - 18.4%

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