Crash Course in Chemistry at Copa America

Three meters. In a three meter space, Mexico had no idea what their teammates were going to do, where they were going to go. That was one of the few points Jesus Bracamontes made last night during the Mexico and Chile’s Copa America clash. Chile has been playing together for years, and it showed. They are a fluid and dynamic, and fun as hell to watch. The one-twos are a thing of beauty. They see themselves as contenders, and rightly so. You can tell that they are serious because even Chupete Suazo looked like he had lost the pooch he was carrying in Monterrey.

Mexico was playing with what essentially amounts to a pick-up team. If they strung more than 5 passes together, it was a miracle.

Y’all know the story: Concacaf mandated U23 team with 5 overagers, FMF further limiting team to a U22, a prostitution scandal that removed 8 players (6 starters & the entire midfield), and their subsequent replacement with a majority of U20 players. Mexico’s coach Luis Fernando “el flaco” Tena had less than a week to figure it all out with his new reinforcements.

La Roja’s fans turned San Juan into Santiago East.

The tea leaves indicated a Chile romp. Chile did their best to comply. They attacked Mexico relentlessly, but their last touch betrayed them over and over again.

And then Mexico scored off a set play and went up at the half.

Dontcha just love this game?

As the game delved deeper into the second half, the assaults kept coming. Mexico looked like a hockey team defending a 5 on 3 power play at first, and just when they finally started to gain a little more possession, Chile got the equalizer on a corner. A few minutes later, they got the game winner off another one, a corner in which Tena inexplicably decided to make a substitution. Oribe Peralta sprinted on, but did not get into position fast enough to cover the open header.

Even Hugo Sanchez noted that it is usually better idea to make your subs when you have possession, not when you are defending a set play. Final score, 2-1. Mexico was having a hard enough time with Chile, and they certainly didn’t need any extra hindrances.

The result was more than fair. Chile was clearly the better side and had complete control of the game despite being down that goal. As expected, Mexico was disjointed and had no clear ideas what to do. Their teenage midfield was no match for the far more experienced Chileans. It is a shame that this Copa America for Mexico will serve nothing more than being a good learning experience for the kids. All parties involved deserve better.

Their next game vs. Peru will go a long way in determining if they have any chance of moving on in this edition of the Copa America. They have made the knockouts in all of their previous appearances. Regardless of how they do, I would guess this is probably Mexico’s last Copa America participation. Inviting teams to tournaments has run its course. CONMEBOL can go back to staging the tournament with their 10 members as they have in they have before. But eyeballs and TV ratings have mystical powers….

It was a disappointing result for Mexico, but then again, any expectations with this team have to be tempered... to say the least.