SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA: On the day his grandmother died back home, Angel Di Maria’s mother asked him to stay with his team, stay focused, and represent his country well in Copa America.
He made them all proud with a gutsy performance.
Di Maria scored in the 51st minute off a pass from Ever Banega, then later assisted on Banega’s goal, and top-ranked Argentina looked plenty powerful without injured captain Lionel Messi in beating Chile 2-1 in its Copa America opener Monday night.
After his goal, Di Maria held up a shirt reading “Grandma, I’ll miss you very much.”
“I am so happy because I was able to score. It was for my grandmother and my family that are having a difficult time,” Di Maria said. “In the morning when I knew what happened I knew that I would score today, and that happened, and it was for her. The coach was afraid I was not going to play, but if I don’t play my grandma was going to get mad.”
His coach didn’t even know until afterward and was impressed with Di Maria’s poise given the emotional day.
“Those are very important circumstances and aspects of life that transcend football,” Gerardo Martino said. “He didn’t tell me anything. He was feeling good to play. Not all people respond the same in those situations.”
Jose Pedro Fuenzalida scored in the third minute of stoppage time as Chile avoided a shutout.
There were five yellow cards issued in a testy rematch of last year’s final won by La Roja on penalty kicks. Cards were given to Di Maria and Gary Medel in the 65th minute after they tussled near the left sideline of Argentina’s offensive half.
Playing at home last year, Chile beat Argentina and Messi 4-1 on penalty kicks for La Roja’s first Copa championship. Argentina’s senior team has not won a major title since the 1993 Copa.