Tonight’s match was always going to be difficult for Chile who had to win in order to go through top and play Portugal. Marcelo Bielsa’s men have had a scintillating World Cup campaign to date, winning their two previous Group matches in impressive style. Ironically, the team that epitomised attacking, all-out football in qualifying were pipped to the post by the Spanish purely on goal difference.
Tonight, David Villa showed why Barcelona paid £35 million for his services next season with a spectacular 40-yard lob with his weaker foot. Despite falling a goal behind, Chile showed immediate signs of an equaliser with Jean Beausejour but he was expertly dispossessed by Gerard Pique at the crucial moment. Chile’s fight back was dealt the fatal blow on 37 minutes when the tricky Andres Iniesta weaved his way through the Chile defence to finally slot past a flailing Claudio Bravo for Spain’s second. La Roja’s bid to launch a comeback was doused in the same moment as the goal, when Marco Estrada appeared to accidently trip Fernando Torres after the ball had been passed. The referee clearly saw it as a ill-timed challenge on the Spanish striker and dealt the Chilean his second yellow card of the match. Reduced to 10 men at the halfway point, a comeback against the European Champions, regardless of their current form, would be nothing short of extraordinary.
But alas, Bielsa’s words of wisdom at the break, along with two changes, had an instant affect on the team, when the men in red pulled a goal back three minutes after the interval courtesy of substitute Rodrigo Millar. His curling effort kindly deflected off the leg of Pique and over the head of Iker Casillas to restore life into the match. With an early goal it was game on for the next 45 minutes to determine who would top Group H – but it was not to be for the South Americans who must now face a formidable Brazilian outfit on Monday.
Chile’s progression into the Last 16, albeit as runners-up, confirms all five of the South American countries in the knockout stages of the competition, with Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil all finishing top of their groups. The five time World Champions confirmed their place at the top of the pile in Group G on seven points after a goalless draw against Portugal who also advance form the group to play Spain.
In other news, Alexis Sanchez was heavily built-up before the tournament had started as one to watch, and he has not disappointed after a string of impressive performances on the wing for La Roja. Real Madrid and Manchester United have already shown an interest in the 22-year-old who has wowed everyone out in South Africa, but his current club Udinese have said only an ‘outrageous’ offer will prise the player from Italy. In the past, Sanchez has expressed an interest in a move to United and the premier League, but Udinese’s sporting director Fabrizio Larini has said he is not for sale unless a substantial offer is made that cannot be turned down: “He will only leave for an outrageous offer. The boy is young and we want him to remain with us for at least another year. We have had many requests and not just from Italy. But I repeat, we do not want to let him go.”
Sanchez will go shoulder to shoulder with some of the world’s best on Monday, when he and his teammates attempt to progress into the Quarter Finals with a win against Brazil. The game will be played at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg and kicks off at 20:30.