Chile, perhaps more than any other team, came into this month’s Copa America Centenario feeling it had something to prove.
Although it is the defending champion, it wasn’t one of the four teams seeded into the tournament. Although it’s ranked fifth in the world, most of the pre-Centenario attention focused on Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay and Brazil.
But if Chile was overlooked, Saturday it made sure it could no longer be ignored, dominating Mexico, 7-0, Saturday before a stunned pro-Mexico crowd of 70,547 at Levi’s Stadium.
With the win Chile moves on to the Centenario semifinals Wednesday in Chicago, where it will meet Colombia. Unbeaten Argentina plays the U.S. in the other semifinal Tuesday in Houston.
Mexico, meanwhile, goes home embarrassed, its national-record 22-match unbeaten streak – and its pride – both broken by the most one-sided loss in a competitive match in Mexican history.
Eduardo Vargas, who topped last year’s tournament in scoring with four goals, got four more Saturday and now leads the Centenario with six. Chile also got two score from Edson Puch – one in each half -- and a second-half goal from Alexis Sanchez.
The beat-down marked a remarkable turn of events for Mexico, which had not lost in 10 matches under new Coach Juan Carlos Orosio, allowing just two goals in that time. El Tri gave up more than that in a nine-minute span early in the second half Saturday. And before the game was over the smattering of Mexican fans who stayed until the end had turned the vulgar chant they use to insult opposing keepers on their own goalie, Guillermo Ochoa.
They should have saved it for the team’s defenders, who gave Ochoa little help. Or the offense, which managed just a solitary shot on goal.
Afterward, Orosio opened his postgame press conference by apologizing to the Mexican fans.
“Today was a disgrace, an accident of football,” he said in Spanish. “Obviously there have been bigger tragedies, but speaking athletically , today was a very poor presentation from us.
“I could not imagine that score, but it is my responsibility.”
The Mexican players took responsibility as well. After a long postgame discussion, every player paused to speak with the media as they walked to the bus, something few have bothered to do during this tournament. Some took to social media as well.
“I can only offer an apology,” defender Miguel Layun said.
Tweeted Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez: “Apologies to all Mexicans. We failed them. We are very embarrassed, sad and hurting.”
But Osorio added some kind words for Chile as well.
“Chile is a very powerful, very good and with every chance of winning the tournament,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Chilean Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi agreed.
“This group of players is already writing Chilean football 's brightest page. Hopefully we can add more to the history,” he said. “It never entered my mind [there would be] a goal difference so great, because it is unusual, it is not logical.
“It is very difficult to match to win the Copa America, we have the aspiration to win.”
Puch got the scoring started innocently enough, collecting the rebound of Marcelo Diaz’s long-range shot in the 16th minute and driving it past Ochoa, who couldn’t scramble back fast enough to make the save.
Vargas doubled the lead a minute before halftime. And just as with the first score, the passing and ball movement in the build-up was impressive before it ended with Sanchez slipping a pass the toward the penalty spot for Vargas, who stepped away from a trio of stationary Mexican defenders and drove a left-footed shot just inside far post.
But Chile was just getting warmed up, with goals by Sanchez (49th minute) and Vargas (52th and 58th minute) turning the game into a rout.
Arturo Vidal set up the first goal, taking the ball from Mexico’s Hector Herrera deep in the offensive end, drawing Ochoa off his line, then slipping the ball to a wide-open Sanchez, who knocked it in.
Next it was Vargas, taking a thorough ball that eluded three defenders and racing deep into the penalty area before slipping the ball around Ochoa. He collected his third goal five minutes later off a rebound.
Vargas’ final score came in the 74th minute, by which time half the massive crowd, a record for a soccer game at Levi’s, was gone. And after Puch added his second goal in the 88th minute, Brazilian referee Heber Lopes waited for the final seconds to tick off the clock, then wisely waved off stoppage time, ending the match.
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11
MORE SPORTS NEWS