Eduardo Vargas leapt in the air and pumped his right fist in triumph as his shaggy hair swayed in the Bay Area breeze, only further demoralizing Mexico on the worst night in El Tri’s storied history.
So much for Chile to celebrate as Vargas scored a career-high four goals, Edson Puch added two and the defending champions thoroughly dismantled Mexico from every angle in a 7-0 Copa America Centenario quarter-final trouncing on Saturday.
“Everyone knows that we are the champions and today we showed it,” said Vargas, dedicating his performance to his family.
Thousands of Mexico’s frustrated fanaticos were already long gone by the time El Tri’s worst defeat in a competitive match finally ended, right along with their team-record unbeaten streak in embarrassing fashion at 22 matches. It occurred one day shy of a year since Mexico’s previous loss, to Ecuador in the Copa America group stages.
“First, I’d like to offer my most heartfelt apologies to the Mexican fans,” Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. “Today was a shameful presentation, an accident that happens in soccer. Obviously, there are bigger tragedies, but speaking in terms of sports, today was a very, very poor showing on our part. I repeat my apologies to all the people and fans.”
Mexico’s fans still regularly used their traditional homophobic chant, even after being urged to stop by tournament organizers, national sport officials and players, especially in the wake of the Orlando shootings.
After Vargas found the net for the final time in the extraordinary display of shot-making, the star forward celebrated yet again with hi teammates, who left no question they have plans to follow up the nation’s first Copa America win last year with another special run.
Alexis Sanchez had a goal and two assists, while Puch scored the bookends for Chile — starting things off in the 16th minute and punctuating the dominant night with an 88th-minute strike.
Fifth-ranked Chile, the runners-ups in Group D to top-ranked Argentina, matched their scoring total from the entire three-game group stage.
La Roja advance to take on Colombia in the semi-finals on Wednesday in Chicago and coach Juan Antonio Pizzi guarded against getting too high from the stunning result.
There is a quick turnaround.
“First of all, with much happiness, I don’t think it’s easy to be the coach of a team that has this kind of superiority on the pitch like we did today against an opponent of that quality,” Pizzi said. “It’s such a prestigious tournament, so you might imagine the feelings we have of much happiness and at the same time caution. We are very conscientious of our work, and know there are high points and low points.”
A sold-out stadium of 70,547 that began the night with the atmosphere of a Mexico home game quickly emptied of El Tri green-clad supporters as the clock wound down.
Vargas scored the first goal of his big night in the 44th minute, five minutes after an offside call cost him another, then added goals in the 52nd, 57th and 74th minutes.
El Tri’s worst competitive loss had been 6-0 to Germany in the group stage of the 1978 FIFA World Cup, while they were beaten 8-0 by England in a 1961 friendly.
“I assume and accept all responsibility for this defeat,” said Osorio, who said no when asked if he would step down, though he plans to evaluate all of his decisions.
Chile’s only other win against Mexico in the Copa America came in a 2-1 victory in 2011.
Sanchez found Vargas in the 44th minute to send Chile into halftime with a nice cushion, then scored himself in the 49th minute off a pass from Arturo Vidal.
Puch got things going in the 16th minute for Chile after capitalizing on a deflected shot by Marcelo Diaz off Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. After Puch controlled the rebound on Diaz’s shot he had an open net with Ochoa still out of position and beat the goalkeeper at the near post.
Sanchez’s 34th goal for Chile tied him with Ivan Zamorano for second on the team’s career scoring list behind Marcelo Salas with 37.
What began as a fiesta of Mexican fans outside, with makeshift concerts and countless cheers, turned into a forgettable night in a hurry with this result. Ashamed, Mexico players passed through the mixed zone offering apologies.
“The first thing we have to do is ask for the fans to forgive us,” goalkeeper Ochoa said.
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