- Chile achieve their first objective: a place in the semis
- Pizzi on Australia: "They made life hard for us"
- Negatives and positives to ponder before taking on Portugal
Chile’s 1-1 draw with Australia on Sunday saw them advance to the semi-finals of the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.
That is quite an achievement, one that speaks volumes about La Roja. The manner in which they secured their last-four place was also telling, however, with the Australians causing them a problem or two and revealing some hitherto unseen weaknesses. Here are the conclusions we took away from the match in Moscow.
Mission No1 accomplished
That was the prevailing message from Juan Pizzi and his players after the 1-1 draw: they wanted a place in the last four and they got it.
Tipped as favourites, La Roja downplayed that billing and went about their football with a minimum of fuss, fulfilling their expectations and those of the pundits.
Pizzi put their misfiring performance down to the pressure that comes with competing for a semi-final slot, and also voiced praise for their opponents: “They could easily be a World Cup quarter-finals team even though they’re not one of the traditional powerhouses.”
A hard-earned point
“They battled for every ball and stopped us from playing our game time and again,” explained Pizzi. “They cut off passes and won the 50-50 balls. It wasn’t an easy match.”
Quite apart from the fatigue that comes with always taking the game to the opposition, Chile’s inability to find space – a commodity crucial to their game plan – can also be put down to Australia’s combative approach. Pizzi’s players were invariably denied time on the ball, causing them to hit stray passes as they searched in vain for some rhythm.
“We just couldn’t get going,” acknowledged Arturo Vidal. Such was Chile’s discomfort and the effectiveness of the Socceroos high press that they struggled to play the ball out, resorting to long balls on more than one occasion.
*-* Bravo returns*: The goalkeeper played an important role. As well as making a superb save from a one-on-one situation in the first half, he was assured in the air and on the ground, playing the ball out confidently with his feet, even when under pressure from the Socceroo forwards. “I treated it like my first match for Chile. I felt good,” said the skipper afterwards.
Super sub: “I’ve always dreamed of scoring for the national side. I hope it helps me to spend more time on the pitch,” said 22-year-old Martin Rodriguez, who came on at the start of the second half and scored his first goal for his country on his sixth appearance. Typical of this Roja side, Rodriguez was not the only sub to shine, with Paulo Diaz proving an effective replacement for Gary Medel in the defence.
Perseverance: Even when things were not working out for them, Pizzi’s players never gave up. There was no arguing among the players and no loss of composure. “We weren’t very fluid at times, but we kept on fighting and looking for the ball. Mentally, we’re keeping it together,” said Vidal.
the number of consecutive international tournaments in which Chile have progressed beyond the group phase, a run that includes two FIFA World Cup™ competitions, four Copa Americas and this Confederations Cup. The last time they fell at the first hurdle was at the 2004 Copa America.
*Portugal on the horizon
*“Ronaldo is in the very best form, but there’s more to them than him,” said Vidal. “We’ve come up against other teams of their quality before and responded well. We have to have confidence in ourselves.”