VINA DEL MAR: Mexico coach Miguel Herrera watched in frustration and anger as his side failed to break down minnows Bolivia in a Copa America encounter Friday that ended in a goalless draw.
Herrera called the 0-0 result a “bitter pill”.
But he was lucky his side did not concede a killer goal in a game that left hosts Chile in charge of Group A after their 2-0 win over Ecuador on the opening day of the South American championship.
Herrera chided his side — weakened by the absence of star players such as Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos — from the touchline as they failed to break down the world 89th ranked Bolivians.
He erupted at Paraguayan referee Enrique Caceres for not awarding a penalty when Javier Aquino, Mexico’s most effective player, appeared to be brought down in the 79th minute.
Herrera brought a weakened squad to the Copa America as he is saving energy for the Gold Cup in the United States next month. But he still insists that Mexico, 29th in the FIFA rankings, are in Chile to win games. Bolivia looked vulnerable when under pressure but surprised their stronger opponents on the counter attack and had three outstanding first half chances.
In the 14th minute, Ricard Pedriel flicked a low cross by Swedish based defender Marti Smedberg-Dalence onto the post.
Just before the break, Jhasmani Campos fired a left foot shot that Mexico goalkeeper Jose Jesus Corona just tipped past the post. From the resulting corner, veteran Bolivian defender Ronald Raldes headed just past the other post.
Herrera was clearly boiling as Mexico failed to get a grip on the game in the second half.
Midfielder Jesus Corona blasted the ball wide of the goal from close range when Matias Vuoso was well placed in the goal area.
Juan Carlos Medina wasted a shot from the edge of the penalty area but Mexico had their best chance when winger Jesus ‘Tecatico’ Corona put in a perfect cross for Vicente Vuoso. The Argentina-born striker headed at the front post and watched the ball go past the far post before burying his head in his hands.
With time running out, the Mexican coach had to be pulled back from the touchline when his side were refused a penalty when Aquino appeared to be pulled down by Leonel Morales.
“If you come to a tournament like the Copa America you have to go out and win so this result was a bitter pill as we wanted three points,” said Herrera.
“We had the chances but did not take them and when that happens it is not a good performance.”
He said Mexico’s game against Chile in Santiago on Monday would be like “a final.”
With each team having played a game, Chile lead Group A on three points, Bolivia and Mexico follow on one point while Ecuador are bottom with no points.
Lionel Messi’s Argentina enter the tournament on Saturday when they take on Group B rivals Paraguay in La Serena.
Defending champions Uruguay play Caribbean side Jamaica, who received a special invitation to the tournament with Mexico, in the day’s other match in Antofagasta.