Before the quarterfinal stages of the Copa America Centenario, we at ATSR wrote that Chile would advance to the semifinals in a hard-fought match against Mexico. We couldn’t have been more wrong. It was never hard-fought, it was never actually close. It could be compared to Germany’s thrashing of Brazil in the last World Cup. Total domination, from start to finish, with the Mexican side looking thoroughly confused and out of responses. It was a match in which everything that could go well for Chile did, and everything that could go wrong to Mexico did, too.
Chilean media were adamant that Jose Pedro Fuenzalida and Edson Puch were going to stop the partnership on the left side of the pitch between Jesus “Tecatito” Corona and Miguel Layun, since neither Puch or Fuenzalida are defensive specialists, but that was one of manager Juan Antonio Pizzi’s gambles that worked to perfection. Other tactical choices that favoured Chile were the relentless high pressing they performed, which resulted in the third goal, and the three-men midfield which won every single ball, starting most of Chile’s devastating attacks.
The tactical match was easily won, but we have to give Chilean players their due. Their performance made it seem there were 14 players up against 10, especially because of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez. Vidal, arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in the world, recovered plenty of balls in midfield, started countless Chilean attacks, and even assisted the last goal. Sanchez scored only once, but his mere presence allowed acres of space for Vargas and Puch, as Mexican defenders tried to put two or three men marking him with dismal results. Eduardo Vargas had endured a rough week, as his mother suffered a heart attack, and it was thought he was going to leave the national team. Luckily for him, she’s recovering nicely and he was able to dedicate his 4-goal performance to her.
It may seem that Mexico didn’t show up, but they never quit. It was just that they were knocked out after the third goal and Chile took advantage and never ceased to run, attack, or even pause for a second. From the start, the name of the game was possession, which Chile never gave up, and didn’t let Mexico play their game. It was a one-of-a-kind match, and one we’ll remember forever.
From a Mexico standpoint, it was the worst loss they have ever suffered in an official competition. The warning signs, however few, were there in their draw against Venezuela. Although Mexico proved to be inculpable that night against the likes of Yonathan Del Valle, the sincere negligence of manager Juan Carlos Osorio to the defensive department was clear.
The constant tinkering from the manager who, before the night, had never lost a game in charge of El Tri, did not help matters. It, instead, shows his stage freight that he opted to rotate individuals game in and game out. There simply cannot be an excuse for that. Yes, his substitutions worked uncannily perfectly time and time again, even after the tournament began, but he has to know what his best eleven is and put them out there for every single game. This is a major tournament. Not the International Champions Cup.
Chile’s constant pressing meant that the lack of understanding between some of the Mexican players was exposed to the naked eye; it’s not their fault the manager didn’t play them together often enough for them to actually be familiar with each other’s movements.
There will be some people who call for Osorio’s head after this humiliating exit. Osorio’s taken the head start and apologized publicly for whatever part he played. Changes should be made after much discussion, and not in a rash manner. Osorio needs to be given the chance to learn from his mistakes because if we’ve learned anything from his tenure so far, it’s that he is pretty darn good at managing. How else do you explain an undefeated run in 10 official games?