Chile 1-0 Switzerland – Gonzalez heads Chile to top of Group H

CHILE 1
Gonzalez 75

SWITZERLAND 0

Chile battled to a hard-fought win over 10-man Switzerland in Group H. Mark Gonzalez struck with 15 minutes left to sink the Swiss, who had Valon Behrami sent off before half time.

Diego Benaglio came to Switzerland’s rescue twice within a matter of seconds, first parrying Arturo Vidal’s vicious curling effort before pushing away a fierce drive from Carlos Carmona. Behrami saw red after half an hour for sticking his arm in the face of Vidal on the touchline, seconds after doing the same to Jean Beausejour. It was little surprise to see the card with the overly fussy referee having already booked four players, the first as early as the opening minute when Humberto Suazo challenged Stephane Grichting.

Chile thought they were ahead just after half time when Alexis Sanchez fired from the edge of the area after a free-kick was rolled square to him. His shot took a deflection off Gonzalez who was one of three offside Chileans when Sanchez struck his effort and the goal was rightly chalked off. Sanchez almost had a legitimate goal after 55 minutes when he charged down Grichting’s attempted clearance. Cutting into the box from the right, Sanchez had his low effort blocked by Benaglio and the ball was hacked clear. Moments later, Gonzalez rose to meet a corner but his header was wide with teammate Gary Medel getting in his way.

The goal finally came after 75 minutes through Gonzalez. Jorge Valdivia released Esteban Paredes who rounded Benaglio and crossed to the back post where Gonzalez headed down into the empty net. Paredes had two glorious chances to double the advantage but wasted them both. First he found himself clean through on goal but blasted the bouncing ball over the bar, before going on a solo run and cutting on to his left foot only to fire wide. In the final minute, Eren Derdiyok had a real chance to equalise but he put his effort past the post from 12 yards.

The decision to send Behrami off was highly debateable. The Swiss midfielder definitely made contact with Vidal but it was not a vicious swing of his elbow. Having just got away with a similar act shielding the ball from Beausejour, it was perhaps foolish of Behrami to raise his arm straight away with Chilean players protesting, with Vidal needing little motivation to roll on the floor as if he had been violently assaulted. Raising an arm is always asking for trouble but there must be a degree of separation between using a flat arm to hold a player off and a deliberate strike on an opponent. A yellow card would have been sufficient for the overly rough attempt to keep hold of the ball but a red came as little surprise from a referee who had earlier booked Blaise Nkufo for the most minor of shirt pulls.

Being reduced to 10 men limited the opportunity for Switzerland to commit bodies forward, leaving a lone striker up front having started with a two-man attack. The Swiss were always going to be the more cautious team, both by nature and with their final game against Honduras preferable to the Chilean’s having to face Spain. A point apiece would not have suited Chile and it was Marcelo Bielsa’s side who took the offensive initiative throughout. Sanchez was again the standout player, his exciting runs and willingness to shoot lighting up a game that was disrupted by the dictatorial refereeing of Khalil Al Ghamdi. In a match with nine yellow cards and a red, it was Chile who dominated the shots at goal column thanks largely to the endeavour of Sanchez and the excellent crossing from the left by Beausejour.

With the passing of the 67 minute mark, Switzerland set a new record for the longest run without conceding a goal at the World Cup. Dating back to 1994 when Roy Hodgson was in charge, the new Swiss record also includes their unique feat of exiting the 2006 World Cup without conceding a goal. Having opened in 2010 with matches against European Champions Spain and the ultra-attacking Chile, to have broken the record is a staggering achievement. The final 37 minutes of their attempt to break the mark were contested a man light following Behrami’s sending off. That the record was only extended by less than eight minutes was little surprise considering the pressure heaped on the Swiss defence by Chile, but full credit must go to them for such a disciplined and organised display.

Spain will be expected to win comfortably against Honduras tonight to move level on points with the Swiss, but Chile could provide Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team with a helping hand when the South Americans meet the Spaniards on Friday. If Chile can hold Spain to a draw to earn the point they need to seal qualification for the next round, then a Swiss win over the Hondurans would send them through too. On this evidence, Spain will go into the match with Chile as favourites due to the low conversion ratio of chances to goals of the Chileans at the World Cup so far. After a poor first game against the Swiss, Spain will surely aim for ruthlessness in their remaining games, but it would still be folly to underestimate Chile from springing some further big surprises in Group H.

Chile – Bravo, Carrizo, Isla, Medel, Jara, Carmona, Vidal (Gonzalez 46), Fernandez (Paredes 64), Sanchez, Suazo (Valdivia 46), Beausejour
Switzerland – Benaglio, Lichsteiner, Von Bergen, Grichting, Ziegler, Huggel, Inler, Behrami (Sent off 30), Fernandes (Bunjaku 77), Frei (Barnetta 42), Nkufo (Derdiyok 68)

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