Chile on brink of Copa America quarter-finals

Santiago (Chile), June 15 (IANS) Chile can book their place in the Copa America quarter-finals with a victory over Mexico in their second Group A fixture in a Copa America football tournament match here on Monday.

The tournament hosts kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 win over Ecuador and a subsequent goalless draw between Mexico and Bolivia handed them the chance to wrap up their progression with a game to spare.

Like Chile, Mexico will have designs on making it out of Group A and their failure to beat Bolivia will have come as a disappointing blow to them.

Mexico coach Miguel Herrera insisted last week that the squad he had brought to Chile was not a “B” team, with key figures such as strikers Javier Hern√°ndez and Giovani dos Santos rested ahead of the Gold Cup.

Indeed, only one of the 35 men named in the provisional squad for that competition is currently with Mexico at the Copa America – winger Jesus Corona.

The importance of the contest has not been lost on Herrera, who highlighted the threat posed by Chile, coached by Jorge Sampaoli.

“We will work for what it takes to play Chile,” he said. “It is a team with skilled players, especially Alexis Sanchez – he is a very dangerous guy.

“It will be a very difficult match and we will concentrate very hard in order to win the ball and keep it. The important thing is to stay strong.”

Mexico were dealt another blow on Saturday by the news that veteran defender Rafael Marquez would be forced to sit out the remainder of the group stage with a leg injury.

The 36-year-old lasted just over an hour of his side’s opener before being replaced by Javier Aquino.

Despite such a key loss for Mexico, defender Gonzalo Jara said nothing is won yet but the team hope to be the first Chilean side to lift the trophy and delight fans in the home nation.

“We have a lot of desire to win something, but you have to be cautious,” Jara said. “We have the conviction to win the Copa America, but it won’t be easy. For me, it’s one of the most difficult Copas I’ve seen.”

Matches between these nations are generally tight affairs, with just one of the last 17 meetings being settled by a margin of more than one goal (Chile 0-2 Mexico in 2001).

There was no separating the sides when they played out a goalless draw in the United States in September, but it was Chile who edged the last competitive encounter, winning 2-1 in the group stage of the 2011 Copa.

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