Mexico face Chile looking to exorcise ghosts of 7-0 Copa America defeat

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Memories of a horrible night for Mexican soccer will always come flooding back when the teams meet, but that game has nothing to do with Tuesday

7-0. The beatdown Chile put on Mexico in the 2016 Copa America Centenario quarter-finals will never be truly forgotten by Mexico fans. Every time El Tri comes up against La Roja, we'll see highlights of the game - all of them for Chile, none for Mexico.

That defeat will be remembered forever, but it's in the past now. Whether you think it was down to manager Juan Carlos Osorio's tactics, players on the field falling short, some weird curse of some kind or a mix of all of them, whatever happened on that field in Santa Clara, California, is gone. 

The teams meet Tuesday in a friendly match in Queretaro, and their fortunes have been different since that day. Chile were about to hit their pinnacle, going on to win the tournament in 2016 before their greatest-ever generation of players ran out of steam and fell short of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Osorio was still building the team in his image. He was criticized for playing Hirving Lozano in that match. In 2018, Mexico topped Germany at the World Cup thanks in no small part to contributions from Lozano and other players brought into the national team setup during the Osorio era.

But that period has ended too. Now both teams are looking to get on track ahead of summer tournaments; Chile struggling to find a way under new manager Reinaldo Rueda and Mexico giving time to young players with interim boss Tuca Ferretti as the search for Osorio's successor continues.

Yet the spirit of that game still lingers over this matchup, the teams' first since that game, and Ferretti hopes his side is able to put it out of their mind and get a good result, rather than focusing on the past.

"This is a preparation match, a new stage, there are new players," he said. "There's a not-so-friendly atmosphere around that game because of the way in which they lost. But you shouldn't play with fear, thinking about what happened. You have to be calm, think about things well.

"The training sessions are giving me confidence that they can do things well. In that game back then, there were really specific errors all game. You have to be well-organized and play without the ghost of the past result. If we come in thinking about that, the players will feel pressured, paralyzed. I want them to show their quality, give the benefit to the team and look to do things the right way to get a good result."

His counterpart agrees. Chile is hardly the team it was during the heyday of Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Gary Medel - though those players will be available for the Colombian manager to select Tuesday. 

"That topic isn't spoken about at all," he said of the 2016 match. "They're different times. It was another Mexico and another Chile. This rivalry and willingness to always have a good game always will be there, and Mexico comes in after playing a good match against Costa Rica."

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The match against Costa Rica was planned with this one in mind, though. Just two of El Tri's seven players based in Europe saw time in the 3-2 win over the Ticos, with forward Raul Jimenez and winger Jesus 'Tecatito' Corona coming in as substitutes. Maybe that's simply Ferretti using his top players for the game that looks most difficult on paper. But you also have to wonder, from hearing him speak about not wanting the ghost of past matches to linger if he feels it's his job to perform an exorcism.

Lozano now can be the man to do it. He may not have been ready to deal with Chile two years ago, but he enters this match as Mexico's biggest star, a player who not only lit up the Eredivisie but has also scored in the World Cup and the Champions League. Sanchez looks like a shell of the player he was two years ago, though he still remains a threat with the national team.

That's soccer, though. Things change. Different players get hot at different times. Sometimes things all come together to go totally wrong for you - or totally right. Mexico fans may never bury the 7-0. It may always linger. For players and those in the sport who are used to turning the page, to moving on to the next one and forgetting about past triumphs or struggles, that match is dead and gone. 

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