Chile won at the World Cup for the first time in 48 years earlier today. The 1-0 victory over Honduras left a bittersweet taste for many Chileans. Sure it is always good to win the game and get 3 points, but Chile missed a great opportunity to take a commanding lead in the group. In a game where their goalie was barely seen, Chile could have and should have stretched the lead on several occasions. The 1 goal victory seems good now, but come next week it could be remembered as the game that cost them a shot at the next round if they are left out on goal differential. In light of the display of the Swiss it is evident that Honduras is the weakest link in the group. Spain will in all likelihood avenge their opening game loss by thrashing them. That could put Chile in an unfavorable goal differential situation. Next monday’s game against the Swiss will be a battle for life or death for Chile as they play for the lead of Group H. Chile needs to win against Switzerland to avoid playing in a must win situation against a desperate Spanish squad in the last game of the 1st round.
The “Colo Colo boys” pulled through for Chile. Vidal, Fernandez, Sanchez, and Valdivia all pitched in to make the win possible. Arturo Vidal was a bastion of defense and security for the 80 minutes he was in play. He rarely lost a ball and pushed his teammates forward when he recuperated the ball on defense. Matias Fernandez set up the first goal by making a magnificent pass to Mauricio Isla, who then crossed it in for Jean Beausejour to bang in the game winner. Fernandez nearly opened the score on a free kick in the second minute of play but the shot went a hair high over the crossbar. He was very active in midfield, feeding his forwards and applying pressure on the Honduran defense. Alexis Sanchez was a constant threat on the right flank. He was a dangerous weapon for the Chileans but was not accurate in the finish nor did he make the best decisions in the numerous counter attacks he led. He needs to fine tune his finish and get in sync with his teamates to be a complete terror to opposing teams on the pitch. He had a great opportunity to add to the 1-0 lead but fired wide of the net in the early satge of the second half. Mauricio Isla also played a good game on the right wing, providing constant up and down game. Valdivia was quieter but managed to be an integral part of the attack even though he was playing out of position to supply for the injured Suazo.
Santiago born Jean Beausejour, the son of a Hatian father and Mapuche mother, scored at the 34th minute just as Chile was really beginning to take control of the match. The lefty finished off a nice collective play as the ball bounced off his thigh, after being crossed in, and into the back of the net. Chile then had a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 midway in the second half when Fernandez played a free kick, to the far post, that Vidal headed back into the center to an unmarked teamate (who shall remain nameless) for finishing. Rather than kicking in a sure goal, the defensemen dove to head the ball in but was stymied by a spectacular save by the Honduran keeper. The blunder could prove to be costly when it is all said and done.
Chile played an attractive style that will win over the casual fan. A team that has no qualms with sending 5 and sometiems 6 men into the opposing penalty area is always fun to watch. Chile is that team. Unfortunately the pretty offensive play did not translate into many goals. Chileans will rejoice to finally get that elusive W on the world stage (they drew three time in 98 vs Italy, Austria and Cameroon and had not won a game since beating Yugoslavia to finish 3rd in the 1962 World Cup), but some will lament the squandered chance of beating down a rival that was totally outclassed on the pitch. The good news for Chile is that top goal scorer Humberto Suazo, who was sorely missed today, should be ready to go the full 90 against Switzerland on Monday. That match is shaping up to be a struggle for the leadershipof Group H. A tie or loss would leave Chile with one foot out of the World Cup so Bielsa’s boys will be ready to go on the offensive yet again.
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Written by The Gator Great