Chile’s sizzling start was enough to blister Australia in a 3-1 win, despite cooling off significantly in the second half.
By: Kevin Buckles Jr, Sports Editor
CUIABA–Undeterred by their star player’s injury, Chile struck the Aussies early and never looked back, winning 3-1 Friday evening at Arena Pantenal.
With arguably Chile’s best player, midfielder Arturo Vidal, playing only 60 minutes of the game due to recuperation from inflammation in his right knee, it was up to Chilean and Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez to take on the load and lead his team to a win.
Sanchez did just that.
In the 11 minute of the match, Chile midfielder Charles Aranguiz had weaseled and woven his way deep into the right side of the penalty box, drawing Australia goalkeeper Maty Ryan away from the goal to defend him.
Aranguiz subsequently lofted a cross back into the middle of the penalty box where Chile forward Eduardo Vargas attempted a header on goal that instead, inadvertently, bounced at the feet of Sanchez.
Twenty-five year old Sanchez took it from there, quickly gathering the errant ball and booting it past two Australian defenders, including Ryan, and into the upper back of the net, giving Chile an early 1-0 advantage.
Alexis was just getting started however.
Just two minutes later, Sanchez was attacking the heart of the Aussie defense drawing a slew of attention from defenders. Instead of taking a shot on goal himself though, Sanchez found his wide open teammate; midfielder Jorge Valdivia, to his left and dished it to him for the finish. Valdivia sent a high sailing shot over the top of Australia’s goalie and into the net, increasing Chile’s lead to 2-0 after just 13 minutes of play.
“We started well and put Australia under a lot of pressure,” said Chile Head Coach Jorge Sampaoli after the game. “We had a good understanding in attack, especially with Alexis Sanchez as the focal point, and we created several chances.”
Australia, seemingly unfazed by their two-goal deficit, struck back in the 35 minute when the Aussies’ star forward Tim Cahill sent a header from the left side of the penalty box into right side of the net, cutting Chile’s lead in half, 2-1.
Cahill out-jumped two Chilean defenders off of a high, lofting pass from across the field to score the goal, which garnered high praise from his head coach, Ange Postecoglou.
“Tim Cahill was outstanding for us– and in the air he is world-class,” said Postecoglou after the game. “No defender wants to go up against him when a cross comes into the box.”
Though Chile had pounced early in the first half, they struggled to get anything going for a large portion of the second half until Jean Beausejour’s very late game-sealing goal in the 92 minute to double the Chileans’ lead, 3-1.
“After Australia scored we lost a little bit of momentum and we got frustrated,” said Coach Sampaoli.“At the end of the match, the players were happy but determined to do better in the next game. We were not at our best.”
Australia’s captain and midfielder Mile Jedinak strongly believed his team excelled against Chile despite losing by two goals, but just could not come with the goals to match.
“We were on top of them, we were so dominant,” Jedinak told FIFA.com after the game. “We had a couple of good chances, and their keeper pulled off some great saves.”
Even after a great game played by Alexis Sanchez, the Barcelona forward still thought his team’s efforts could have been better down the stretch of the game. His team has work to do going forward to prepare for their next match Wednesday against Spain at Maracanã – Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho.
“We suffered a bit, it’s true, but this is a World Cup,” said Sanchez after the game.“Maybe we relaxed a bit too early, although we never gave up and kept attacking. We gave a 100 percent in hot weather, and the prize is a satisfying victory.”
Chile and Australia will return to action Wednesday to continue their World Cup tourney; Chile will face Spain at Maracanã, while Australia will take on the Netherlands at Estadio Beira in Rio.
The highlights to this match can be seen on this link http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=intl:1879607, video provided by ESPN FC.