SAO PAULO – Chile beat Japan 4-0 on Monday in their Group C opening match for the Copa America in Brazil, an excessive punishment for a Japanese team who showed flashes of good soccer and at times managed to dominate the tournament’s reigning champion.
A brace by Eduardo Vargas and two more goals from Erick Pulgar and Alexis Sanchez ensured victory for Chile. Japan, who came with a youthful squad to the tournament, had their chances but lacked a cutting edge.
Despite the absence of agile and eye-catching soccer, Chile is still well on its way to defend the titles it obtained in 2015 and 2016.
Japan made an energetic start, with Takefusa Kubo – who was signed by Real Madrid last week for its B-squad – leading the charge against the surprised reigning champion, who failed to respond to the defensive pressures and the devilish speed of the Japanese strikers.
Chile spent much of the first half totally disoriented and trying to contain the outbursts of a Japanese team who knew very well how to play.
Shoya Nakajima gave the Chileans a lesson in dribbling speed and ball control, and almost opened the scoring before the 10-minute mark.
Kubo displayed some of his talent, especially a delightful nutmeg against Mauricio Isla, and moved freely through his attacking area.
After half an hour, Sanchez appeared with a double chance, although neither of his two shots was on target.
Chile stepped up their game and moved the ball more fluidly. They were rewarded for their period of dominance with the opener, when Pulgar nodded in a Charles Aranguiz corner in the 41st minute.
Japan slowed down in the second half and Chile doubled their lead with Vargas scoring the first of his two goals after a cut-back from Mauricio Isla in the 53th minute.
Japan’s Ueda squandered a chance to respond, firing wide of the back post after a cross from Gaku Shibasaki.
While the Japanese failed in their attacks, Chile knew how to take advantage of each and every one of its approaches.
Less than ten minutes before the match ended, Sanchez scored another goal for Chile and a minute later gave an assist to the striker Vargas, who sealed his second goal with ease.