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El Tri makes fans feel good in 3-1 friendly win over nemesis Chile

El Tri makes fans feel good in 3-1 friendly win over nemesis Chile
Mexico's Hector Moreno, above right, heads the ball in for a goal during the second half of an international friendly soccer match against Chile on Friday in San Diego. (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Seven-nil.

It’s what many in the announced crowd of 49,617 inside SDCCU Stadium were probably thinking.

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Mexico finally broke through in its exhibition against Chile on Friday night when Carlos Salcedo drew a penalty in the box and Raul Jimenez, who had hit the post in the first half, converted it in the 52nd minute. In the 63rd minute, Mexico scored again. In the 65th minute, a third.

In the 66th minute, nearly a fourth.

There’s probably nothing El Tri can do to erase the embarrassment, the pit-of-the-stomach humiliation, of the historic 7-0 loss against Chile in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario that elicited the headline, “Tridiculo,” in a Mexico City newspaper. But Friday’s 3-1 win, convincing and comprehensive as it was, is at least a start.

It was also a start for new coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who was greeted with lukewarm applause when he was introduced before kickoff that grew into thunderous elation as his team launched wave after wave of attacks in the second half.

Playing Chile, the architect of so much angst for El Tri, represented a risk in his debut. Playing Chile in San Diego did not, though.

Over the last seven years, Mexico is 2-0 against Chile in this stadium … and 0-3-2 against La Roja everywhere else.

“I don’t think people should go crazy for a good win in a friendly in my first game,” Martino said in Spanish. “It is you guys [in the media] who can help keep this from getting out of hand. I said yesterday that I had high hopes about the team. As a coach, when a team takes what you do in three days of practice and you show it in a game, then you definitely will continue with high hopes.”

Martino called on a veteran roster of 28 and offered no real surprises in his starting 11. Eight played in the 2018 World Cup and five currently are based in Europe: goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa (Belgium), defender Hector Moreno (Spain), winger Hirving Lozano (Netherlands), midfielder Andres Guardado (Spain) and Jimenez (England). Five played in the fateful 2016 game against Chile.

The only newbie was Carlos Rodriguez, a 22-year-old midfielder who received his first cap.

Despite a lackluster first half that required a spectacular save by Ochoa ( to keep it 0-0, Martino didn’t send in a legion of subs, as you regularly see in friendlies. He made some tactical adjustments in the locker room, then gave his starters extra time to figure things out.

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