Chilean football team off to a great start at the Copa América

Chile’s “La Roja” defeats Mexico in thrilling come-from-behind victory, putting Chile at the top of its first-round group.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011  
Celebrating Chile's second goal, which took them to a 2-1 lead over Mexico. (Photo courtesy of AFNP) Celebrating Chile's second goal, which took them to a 2-1 lead over Mexico. (Photo courtesy of AFNP)

For Chile’s opening Copa América match in Argentina, thousands of Chilean fans ventured across the Andes to watch their beloved “La Roja” squad and endure unseasonably cold temperatures.

They treated to a nail-biting contest, where victory at times seemed maddeningly elusive. But in the end Chile’s fans left elated following la Roja’s 2-1 victory over Mexico in the Group C match.

Despite Chile’s overwhelming dominance on the pitch - the Chileans had control of the ball 70 percent of the game - Mexico’s young team sent a hush through the Chilean sections of the stadium when it scored an unlikely goal off of a header by Mexico’s Ernesto Araujo in the 41st minute.  

In the second half, Chile’s dominance continued and finally paid off when Ernesto Paredes, who had only entered the match moments earlier as a substitute, kicked in an errant ball from close range in the 67th minute following a corner kick.

Then, only six minutes later, Arturo Vidal expertly headed another corner kick into the top left corner of the goal past the outstretched hands of Mexico goalkeeper, Luis Michel, producing tremendous cheers and sighs of relief among fans throughout Chile.

Two of Chile’s world-class stars, “El Niño Maravilla” Alexis Sánchez and Humberto Suazo, kept the Mexicans constantly on the defensive with their exceptional skills and exciting play, though they were unable to convert several close scoring opportunities during the match.

The victory was an important milestone for Chilean coach Claudio Borghi, who took the reins of la Roja after Marcelo Bielsa resigned following Chile’s impressive World Cup performance - its best since 1962.

Like the group stage in the World Cup, Copa América groups consist of four teams each. A team earns three points for a victory, one point for a draw and zero points for a loss. The top two teams advance, eliminating half the field.

Monday’s come-from-behind victory over Mexico’s has put Chile in a excellent position to advance out of the group stage, after Uruguay tied Peru 1-1 earlier Monday afternoon.  Chile plays World Cup semi-finalist Uruguay on Friday, July 8 at 6.15 pm, Chilean time.