Argentina’s di Maria stars for Grandma
SANTA CLARA, California (AP):
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 their 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. I was afraid of not playing, but if I didn't play, my grandma was going to get mad."
His coach didn't even know until afterwards 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."
Di Maria assisted on Banega's deflected goal in the 59th minute as Messi cheered from the bench.
Jose Pedro Fuenzalida scored in the third minute of stoppage time as Chile avoided a shutout.
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, losing to Germany in the 2014 World Cup final.
Argentina beat Chile 2-1 in World Cup qualifying in Santiago on March 24.