El Tri in the Copa América: A look back at Mexico's debut appearance

Miguel Mejía Barón led an up-and-coming Mexico team to the finals in 1993
In its first-ever Copa América appearance, Mexico reached the final before losing to Gabriel Batistuta (right) and Argentina.
In its first-ever Copa América appearance, Mexico reached the final before losing to Gabriel Batistuta (right) and Argentina. / Christian Liewig - Corbis/GettyImages

It's been eight years since El Tri took part in a Copa América and that last match is seared in many people's memory. And not for a good reason.

En route to winning its second consecutive Copa América trophy, Chile completely undressed Mexico 7-0 in the quarterfinals, the worst defeat El Tri has ever suffered in an official match.

Although it's tough to get that sour taste out of one's mouth, Mexico fans do have some fond memories of Copa América's past, especially the first several times El Tri participated.

In five tournaments from 1993 through 2001, Mexico reached the semifinals four times, advancing to the finals twice. There has been little but disappointment since then although El Tri earned another bronze medal in 2007

How's that for a Copa América debut!

Mexico’s first Copa America came 31 years ago when El Tri was invited to participate in the prestigious South American tournament and Los Aztecas stunned the pundits by battling all the way to the final before losing to Gabriel Batistuta and Argentina.

El Tri lost its inaugural match 2-1 to Colombia in controversial fashion as the game-winner – awarded in minute 87 – still has not crossed the goal line.

Mexico followed that up with an uninspiring 1-1 draw against Argentina, the defending champs. Despite concluding the group stage with a scoreless draw against Bolivia, Mexico qualified for the knockout round as the second-best third-place team. 

Mexico blasted Peru 4-2 in the quarterfinals behind two goals from Beto García Aspe, then stunned host Ecuador 2-0 at Quito’s Estadio Atahualpa in the semifinals, Hugo Sánchez and Ramón Ramírez doing the honors.

With that result, El Tri became the first non-Conmebol team to reach the finals of the Copa América, the oldest still-running continental soccer competition.

In the final, played on July 4 at Guayaquil's Estadio Monumental, Miguel Mejía Barón's men held their own against mighty Argentina. Gabriel Batistuta, aka Batigol, scored two second-half goals to offset a penalty conversion by Benjamín "El Maestro" Galindo and the Argentines walked off the pitch with a 2-1 victory.


Mexico finished the tournament with a 2-2-2 record, with 9 goals scored and 7 goals allowed. More importantly, the squad learned that it could compete with the best in the world and El Tri would go on to qualify for the 1994 World Cup, the first of eight consecutive World Cup appearances.