Di Maria's tragedy fuels Argentina's victory

'GRANDMA, I WILL MISS YOU SO MUCH': Di Maria held a shirt with this message dedicated to his grandmother, who died hours earlier, after he scored against Chile during Monday's Copa America Centenario game.


    Jun 08, 2016

    Di Maria's tragedy fuels Argentina's victory


    A GRIEVING Angel Di Maria was the inspiration as Argentina shrugged off the absence of Lionel Messi to defeat holders Chile 2-1 in their opening Copa America Centenario game here on Monday.

    Paris Saint-Germain star Di Maria - reeling from the death of his grandmother only hours earlier - scored one goal and set up another as the two-time world champions avenged their defeat to Chile in last year's Copa America final.

    Di Maria opened the scoring on 51 minutes and emotionally held a T-shirt up to the sky emblazoned with the message: "Grandma, I will miss you so much."

    Moments later, Di Maria then set up Argentina's second for Ever Banega, to complete a man-of-the-match performance.

    "I had to play, I wanted to play, my grandmother was so proud that I played for the national team," Di Maria said during a post-match television interview before breaking down in tears.

    Argentina coach Gerardo Martino revealed afterwards Di Maria had kept his loss a secret from him.

    "I just learnt that five minutes ago that his grandmother died," Martino said. "He didn't tell me anything, he was feeling well to play."

    Di Maria's virtuoso display secured a deserved three points for Argentina, who will now fancy their chances of topping Group D with games against Panama and Bolivia to come.

    Chile substitute Jose Fuenzalida scored an injury-time consolation for the holders.

    Injured Argentina captain Messi watched from the substitutes' bench at 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.

    Argentina dominated the early exchanges before Chile, fielding the core of their victorious Copa America side, gradually grew into the game.