Mexico was embarrassed by the reigning Copa America champion, which put seven goals past a listless El Tri to move on to this year’s semifinals.
Mexico wasn’t supposed to go out of the tournament, not like this. This is a team that brought the longest unbeaten streak in the world, 22 consecutive matches, into the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals. Surely El Tri would at least keep it close, if not extend that unbeaten run.
But beaten they were by a Chile side that looked like a pool hustler after its weak group matches. “Hey Mexico, want to play a quarterfinal? I’m not that good. I barely beat Bolivia! Panama had the lead on me!” The true class showed through Saturday.
Eduardo Vargas, who was one of the best players in the tournament that Chile won on home soil in 2015, was again unstoppable. He had a four goals and was joined on the score sheet by Edson Puch and Arturo Vidal. Jean Beausejour didn’t look to have been at all affected by the knock he took in the final group game, pushing forward and keeping defender Paul Aguilar pinned back.
Vidal’s superb showing both getting forward to assist his teammates as well as muscling through the midfield was the only thing that made manager Juan Carlos Osorio look smart on the evening. Prior to the match, the Mexico boss had said Vidal is the player from Chile he’d add to the team.
It’s a failure by Mexico’s own standard but a humiliation by any measure. The goal was to make the top three at this tournament, a competition Uruguay’s FA chief accused of being set up for Mexico to win. Instead, El Tri are out at the quarterfinal stage after suffering a defeat heavier than the one Brazil put on lowly Haiti earlier in the competition.
Under Osorio, Mexico had allowed just two goals in 10 matches. In the 11th match, Mexico allowed more than three times as many. There were individuals at fault: Aguilar, Hector Moreno, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, but ultimately it was a team failure, one that falls at the feet of Osorio.
Mexico wasn’t supposed to go out like this. It wasn’t supposed to be out of the Copa before its CONCACAF rival the United States. It wasn’t supposed to be outclassed so heavily on the field with Osorio working his tactical machinations.
The manager cut a relaxed figure before the match. He can’t afford to do that any more. Mexico has little patience for even small transgressions. It will be difficult for him to keep his job after this comprehensive beating his team has taken.
On one hand, Mexico has seen this before. It’s another major tournament where fans can celebrate making it out of the group stage, only to have the fourth match be the last one the team plays in the tournament. On the other hand, this was one goal from being the worst defeat in Mexico’s history and is the worst loss Mexico has taken in an official match.
Mexico is a proud footballing nation, but there is no pride in the performances Saturday night. Mexico was embarrassed, and the feeling of humiliation will be tough for Osorio to get past or Mexico fans to forget.