Lionel Messi and Argentina pay tribute to Diego Maradona in first match since legend's death

Lionel Messi and Argentina pay tribute to Diego Maradona in first match since legend's death

(CNN)The Argentina national team paid tribute to Diego Maradona in its first match since his death, unveiling a five-meter [16.4-foot] statue and wearing his image on their shirts ahead of kick-off.

Maradona, an Argentine icon and widely considered one of the greatest footballers of all time, died after suffering heart failure in November last year.In the fifth round of fixtures in South American World Cup qualifying, Argentina and Chile played out a 1-1 draw in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, with Alexis Sanchez’s goal canceling out Lionel Messi’s penalty.

    A 16-foot-5-inch tall statue of late football legend Diego Maradona is unveiled at the Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades.”It [the match] is special, since it was the first without Diego,” Messi told reporters after the game.

      “It would have been nice if there were people in the stadium to pay tribute to him, but what is happening in the country and worldwide is complex. We wanted the win and to represent the national team as Maradona used to do.”Read MoreREAD: Diego Armando Maradona — The tormented genius who became one of football’s greatest playersLionel Messi and Argentina pay tribute to Diego Maradona in first match since legend's death Leo Messi celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Chile.Ahead of kick-off, the national team and the federation president were present for the unveiling of the new Maradona statue outside the Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades, where Chile and Argentina played on Thursday.As the teams lined up on the pitch before the match, the players wore images of Maradona on their shirts with the year of his birth — 1960 — and the infinity symbol in place of the year of his death.

        READ: Seven medical professionals charged with homicide after investigation into Diego Maradona’s deathLionel Messi and Argentina pay tribute to Diego Maradona in first match since legend's death Chile players celebrate Alexis Sanchez’s equalizer.The draw meant Argentina missed the chance to climb above Brazil at the top of the standings, while Chile remains in seventh.