Defender Gonzalo Jara is convinced Chile can manage without star striker Humberto Suazo in their FIFA World Cup™ opener against Honduras on Wednesday. Suazo, the top scorer in the South American qualifying section with 10 goals, is doubtful for the Group H clash in Nelspruit with a thigh injury.
The 29-year-old, who ended last season on loan at Real Zaragoza from Mexican side Monterrey, sustained the problem in a friendly against Israel prior to the tournament. He is said to be recovering well but seems unlikely to be risked by Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa.
West Brom player Jara, 24, said: "He has achieved a lot with our team - in qualification and the friendlies we have had - and in Europe, we have seen how important Humberto is to us. But I believe this team is prepared to play differently, with a different system and different players. Our game plan is based around the team."
Chile, playing in their first FIFA World Cup since 1998, have an unenviable history in the event. They reached the second stage 12 years ago, but only on the back of three draws, and they have not won at the finals since they hosted them and were semi-finalists in 1962. That has not stopped them from travelling to South Africa with confidence after finishing runners-up to Brazil in qualification.
Bielsa, Argentina's coach at the 2002 tournament, advocates an exciting, attacking philosophy and has built his side around a core of players who finished third in the 2007 Under-20 FIFA World Cup.
Jara added: "The jump from the Under-20 World Cup to the adult one is large, but we know a lot. There are few nerves and we want this to start to show what we are."
Chile and Honduras will be among the last to feature in the tournament and Jara is anxious for kick-off at the new Mbombela Stadium to arrive. We want to get this started soon," he said. "We're going to attack. The first match is vital, no matter if you win 1-0 or 3-0 -- it is worth three points."