Bologna’s Erick Pulgar opened the scoring | Picture: Conmebol

Copa America defending champions Chile started their title defence with a convincing 4-0 win over Japan earlier today in Sao Paolo.

Alexis Sanchez, who had a season to forget with Manchester United, scored for the first time in 5 months and also provided an assist.

“For six weeks I felt worse than I ever have before,” Sanchez said. “I struggled in the first half as I felt stifled but in the second half I was more relaxed and played with more freedom and excitement.”

“I think we have improved as a team since 2015 in defending and getting on the attack quickly,” he added. “We’ve won a very difficult game and now we have to think about our next one.”

Although, Since 2016, Chile ageing squad has struggled with consistency and for this reason, La Roja failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup in Russia.

Eduardo Vargas also starred in with 2 goals and took his Copa America goal tally to 12 and has netted in four consecutive major tournaments with Chile.

Vargas bagged his 11th and 12th goal in Copa America | Picture: Conmebol
Japan, playing Copa America for the second time, brought a very inexperienced squad to Brasil.

Among these youngsters, 19-year-old Takefusa Kubo who recently joined Real Madrid Castilla looked lively from the start but couldn’t score.

The two-time defending champions took the lead through Erick Pulgar in the 41st minute. With this victory, La Roja is on top of the table alongside Uruguay, who also won their opening match against Ecuador by 4-0.

Despite the disappointing result, Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu said there were a lot of positives.

“We have to accept the difference in quality between Chile and us,” Moriyasu said.

“But the players fought without hesitation. In attack, they showed they are capable of scoring. I hope they take that grit into the next game.”

Japan has played in one previous Copa America, appearing at the 1999 tournament in Paraguay, finishing with one draw and two losses.

Alexis Sanches MOTM: Picture: Conmebol

Chile will be in action against Ecuador on Saturday, while Japan has a tough game against Uruguay on Friday.

Tomorrow, Bolivia will lock horns against Peru at Maracana, before hosts Brazil entertain Venezuela at Belo Horizonte.

 

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