Summary

  • Vargas scored four goals in Chile's quarter-final win over Mexico.
  • Finished top scorer at last summer's Copa America.
  • La Roja's fourth all-time leading goalscorer.

After steering TSG 1899 Hoffenheim clear of relegation in 2015/16, Chile international Eduardo Vargas has hit full throttle at the Copa America Centenario.

The 26-year-old netted four times in Sunday's 7-0 quarter-final rout of Mexico and now sits top of the scoring charts - two clear of Argentina's Lionel Messi - on six goals for the tournament.

Built for the Copa

It is not the first time Vargas has made the continental stage his own. The Santiago-born forward finished top scorer in last summer's competition as La Roja lifted a maiden Copa America title, and notched a brace in Chile's decisive group stage victory over Panama four days ago.

Perhaps it is down to the efforts of midfield engines FC Bayern München's Arturo Vidal and Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Charles Aranguiz; or maybe it is the freedom afforded to him by Chile's unstrained brand of attacking football. Either way, there is just something about the Copa America that brings the very best out of him.

Bumps in the road

Unlike some of his big-name contemporaries, however, Vargas has achieved national hero status the hard way. Signed by Cobreloa at the age of 16, it was not until 2012 that he earned a sought-after move to Europe with SSC Napoli. Yet while Vidal was busy winning one Serie A title after the other at Juventus FC, Vargas' journey hit something of a snag.

Despite becoming the first Chilean player to score a hat-trick in European competition in a 4-0 win over AIK Solna in the 2012/13 UEFA Europa League, Vargas spent the next three seasons out on loan at Gremio Foot-Ball Porto Alegrense, Valencia CF and Queens Park Rangers, before finding a welcome home for himself in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim.

Although Vargas' debut Bundesliga campaign only yielded two goals in 24 appearances, there was never any doubt that he would miss out on Chile's Copa America title defence. His commitment and work rate alone are worth their weight in gold and, as his performances against Panama and Mexico go to show, he will score given half a chance.

On the heels of greats

Vargas (31) is currently fourth behind Alexis Sanchez (34), Ivan Zamorano (34) and Marcelo Salas (37) on his country's all-time list of top goalscorers. His name has not always carried as much currency or garnered as much attention, but there can be little doubt he is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath. After all, defending champions and Copa America Centenario semi-finalists Chile would not be where they are now without him.