SAO PAULO (AFP) – Eduardo Vargas scored twice as Chile launched the defense of their Copa America crown with an emphatic 4-0 defeat of Japan in Sao Paulo on Monday.
Vargas, who plays for Mexico club Tigres UANL, netted twice in the second half as Chile gradually overpowered a skillful but limited Japan, who are playing in the South American showpiece as one of two invited teams from Asia.
Erick Pulgar had opened the scoring for Chile in the first half before Vargas doubled the 2015 and 2016 champions’ advantage with a deflected second-half strike.
Manchester United’s Alexis Sanchez then took his Chilean record goals tally to 42 after diving to head home in the 82nd minute before Vargas scored the pick of the goals moments later with a deft lob over Japan goalkeeper Keisuke Osako.
The win saw Chile join Uruguay at the top of Group C, level on points and goal difference.
“The important thing is that we move on now with humility,” said Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda.
“This win doesn’t suddenly make us a dream team, just as we weren’t the disaster that our critics were saying we were before.”
The scoreline was harsh on Japan, who had carved out several promising chances but were let down by poor finishing from young striker Ayase Ueda.
“We deserved to score a goal,” said Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu. “The difference was that they were clinical and took their chances. We’re sad to lose but proud that we really took it to them.”
Japan had started confidently, dominating territory and possession albeit without threatening the Chile goal.
Their best early chance came after nine minutes when Shoya Nakajima let fly after bursting forward only to see his shot saved by Chile goalkeeper Gabriel Arias.
As the first half wore on, Chile looked increasingly more threatening, and Sanchez sounded the alarm in the Japanese defense in the 35th minute when his low shot flashed just wide.