Chile eye end to 48 years of hurt
© AFP

Chile will try again to end a 48-year winless FIFA World Cup run when they tackle Honduras on Wednesday in a Group H Nelspruit showdown.

Since defeating Yugoslavia to finish third as hosts of the 1962 tournament, the South Americans have played 13 matches at the four-yearly football extravaganza without celebrating a victory. However, hopes are high that a team which finished second behind Brazil in the qualifying competition for South Africa can not only defeat the Central Americans, but qualify for the knockout second round.

The Chilean group schedule suggests they will face increasingly tougher opposition with Honduras followed by modest European rivals Switzerland and then FIFA World Cup favourites Spain. This is a young, hungry Chilean outfit lacking household international names that has already impressed in South Africa, defeating the host nation more convincingly than the 2-0 scoreline suggests in a friendly last year.

This team got to South Africa on its own. I did not take them there, rather I am going there with them.
Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa

Meticulous Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose El Loco nickname hardly does him justice, favours a 3-3-1-3 system with his team swarming about the field like bees, giving rivals little time to settle. Bielsa is as desperate for success as his footballers after failing to take his homeland beyond the first round at the 2002 FIFA World Cup with Argentina, losing to England and held by Sweden - though he did guide them to Olympic success in 2004.

Famous for the thoroughness of his preparations, he spends hours studying videos of his own team and opponents, looking for the one chink in the armour that could tilt the balance.  While Bielsa has become a national hero in his adopted country and been offered citizenship, he is quick to pass credit to a squad captained by goalkeeper Claudio Bravo from Spanish club Real Sociedad.

"This team got to South Africa on its own. I did not take them there, rather I am going there with them," he told Chilean journalists, who are regularly subjected to multi-hour news conferences as the coach answers every question.

Honduras, making a second appearance after two draws and a 1-0 loss in Spain 28 years ago, also have a foreign coach, with Colombian Reinaldo Rueda enjoying the same popularity afforded to Bielsa. In a squad containing 14 local semi-professionals, Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa and Tottenham midfielder Wilson Palacios represent the English Premier League.

Midfielders Edgar Alvarez and Julio de Leon and striker David Suazo play in Italy, although the latter is a doubtful starter for the match at the 42,000-seat Mbombels Stadium in the north-east city. "Chile play a different brand of football to most countries and you have to be very intelligent to match them," is the warning Rueda drills into a team prone to lapses in defensive concentration.