Chile ended a wait of almost half a century for a victory on the world stage by defeating Honduras 1-0 in their opening Group H game in Nelspruit.
If there was a touch of fortune about Jean Beausejour's 34th-minute winner – Roger Espinoza's attempted clearance striking him as the pair slid in to meet a cross – it was the least Chile deserved for an impressive attacking display that had Honduras on the ropes for much of the 90 minutes at the Mbombela Stadium. For Chile, it was a victory exactly 48 years in the making – the South Americans had not won a FIFA World Cup™ match since defeating Yugoslavia in the match for third place on home soil on this very day in 1962. Moreover, they had never won outside their home continent but they showed here just why they were strong enough to finish second in South American qualifying.
Facing a Honduran side making their first finals appearance since 1982, Marcelo Bielsa's men hit the ground running, dominating possession in the opening half-hour and pinning Honduras back. Matias Fernandez sent a free-kick dipping on to the roof of Noel Valladares' net after just three minutes and La Roja's quick passing soon led to several half-chances. Arturo Vidal drove in a long-range shot that Valladares required two attempts to hold, then sent a header over the crossbar from a corner. In between Chile opened up the Honduran back line with one swift passing exchange only for Jorge Valdivia to overhit his final ball to Beasejour.
Bielsa's men gained their reward for an impressive start after 34 minutes. It was a nicely worked goal, if fortuitous in the final execution. Chile's pinball passing created a gap for Mauricio Isla to break clear on the right side of the penalty box and fire in a low cross to the near post. Although Espinoza got a stretched leg to the ball first, it bounced up against Beausejour and deflected into the net. Chile kept coming forward, with Sanchez driving in a shot that struck the hand of Maynor Figueroa. There were few glimmers of hope for Reinaldo Rueda's Honduras at the other end. Ramon Nunez finally called Chile custodian Claudio Bravo into action on the stroke of half-time, dipping in a free-kick that the goalkeeper tipped over.
The attacks kept flowing toward Honduras's goal in the second period. Sanchez should have added a second just after the hour when Valvidia played him in down the right, only for the Udinese winger to drag his shot wide of the far post. Valladares then made a superb diving save to keep out Waldo Ponce's close-range header, stretching out his right hand to block the ball when the defender looked certain to bury Vidal's header across goal. Next it was Figueroa's turn to rescue his side with a goal-saving challenge on Mauricio Isla. When Valdivia did find the net he was offside but one goal would be enough for the inventive Chileans.