A sublime Lionel Messi free-kick was not enough for Argentina to start the Copa America with a victory as Chile striker Eduardo Vargas salvaged a 1-1 draw. Argentina had much the better of the first half and mercurial captain Messi put them in front with a brilliant free-kick in the Group A encounter at Estadio Nilton Santos.
Vargas came to Chile's rescue after the break, heading home the rebound after Emiliano Martinez saved Arturo Vidal's penalty. Nicolas Gonzalez was particularly wasteful as Argentina were unable to secure what would have been a deserved victory in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.
Messi is yet to win a trophy with Argentina following back-to-back runners-up performances at the Copa America in 2015 and 2016, having also fallen short in the 2007 final against Brazil.
Giovani Lo Celso provides the spark in midfield for Argentina
Giovani Lo Celso was Chile's chief tormentor in a promising start from the Albiceleste, setting up chances that Lautaro Martinez and Gonzalez were unable to take. Gonzalez headed over the crossbar after his shot was palmed away by Claudio Bravo and the forward also failed to beat the Chile goalkeeper with a tame finish when the lively Lo Celso sent him clear with an incisive pass.
Messi produced yet another moment of magic to put Argentina in front, though, bending a brilliant free-kick into the top-right corner after 33 minutes.
An unmarked Martinez spurned a glorious chance to add a second when he scuffed a shot wide and Lionel Scaloni's side were made to pay for their profligacy when Chile levelled 12 minutes into the second half.
Vidal was awarded a spot-kick for a rash challenge from Nicolas Tagliafico after referee Wilmar Roldan checked the pitchside monitor and although the midfielder's penalty was brilliantly tipped against the crossbar by Emiliano Martinez, Vargas nodded in following up.
Bravo palmed away Messi's drive 20 minutes from time and Gonzalez headed over the bar when his skipper presented him with another golden opportunity in a frustrating start for Argentina.
What does it mean? Argentina must be more ruthless
There was a sense of deja vu as the two sides played out a 1-1 draw 10 days after their World Cup qualifier ended with the same outcome.
Argentina ought to have been more than one up at half-time and they were left to rue some poor finishing in a first game of a tournament they have not won since 1993.
There should be more to come from a Chile team - missing the injured Alexis Sanchez - who could not muster a shot on target in the first half, but posed more of a threat after the break.
More Messi magic
Messi was directly involved in 50 goals (38 scored, 12 assisted) in 47 games for Barcelona last season and struck from the penalty spot against Chile this month.
The skipper maintained his usual incredible standards as he eyes an elusive first international trophy. Messi hit the target with three of his seven shots and made four key passes in another dazzling display.
Here today, Gon tomorrow?
Gonzalez might be fortunate to keep his place in the side after wasting chance after chance. The striker could easily have had a hat-trick and must hope he grasps opportunities to make amends.
Chile take on Bolivia at Arena Pantanal on Friday, with Argentina up against Uruguay at Estadio Nacional de Brasilia on Saturday.