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Copa America Centenario: Argentina down champions Chile sans Messi

Argentina shrugged off the injury absence of talismanic striker Lionel Messi as they launched their Copa America Centenario campaign with a 2-1 defeat of defending champions Chile at California on Monday.

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Goals from Angel Di Maria and Ever Banega secured a deserved three points for Argentina, who exacted sweet revenge for their defeat to the same opposition in last year’s Copa America final.

Chile substitute Jose Fuenzalida scored an injury time consolation goal for the holders. The Argentines will now be firm favourites to progress to the quarter-finals as Group D winners with games against Panama and Bolivia to come by.

Injured skipper Messi watched from the substitutes’ bench at the Levi’s Stadium after failing to recover in time from a sore back suffered in a friendly win over Honduras last month.

But the Barcelona superstar’s absence was barely noticeable, with Nicolas Gaitan slotting into Argentina’s attack and making an instant impression, hitting the woodwork with a header after only two minutes.

That missed chance set the tone for early exchanges of an entertaining first half which saw Argentina create the lion’s share of opportunities without managing to find a breakthrough goal.

Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo was the next to test Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, as the former unleashed a dipping shot from 20 yards which the Barcelona stopper comfortably saved in the 17th minute.

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