Illgner lauds Sanchez class, Vidal lungs

Bodo Illgner, the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in a FIFA World Cup™ Final, has hailed Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal and insisted Chile can win next year’s FIFA Confederations Cup.

La Roja have won back-to-back Copa America crowns – first under Jorge Sampaoli, who quit to assume the Sevilla reins in January, and then Juan Antonio Pizzi. They sit fourth – the last automatic qualification place – in South America’s preliminaries for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, behind Ecuador on goal difference and above Argentina by a point. Chile will face Illgner’s native Germany, Australia and the soon-to-be-determined African champions in Group B at the Confederations Cup.

“The Chilean national team have improved a lot in recent years, since the time of Jorge Sampaoli, who did a great job,” the 49-year-old told AS. “They are one of the strongest national teams in the world and showed that at the Copa America. After winning two Copa America , of course they have hope of winning the Confederations Cup.”

Luminaries Illgner’s holding of Chile in high esteem is indebted to their stars. The man who frustrated Diego Maradona and his Argentina team-mates in the Italy 1990 decider spent five years between the Real Madrid sticks and was voted into their all-time greatest foreign XI, lives on the Costa Blanca, from where he paid close attention to Sanchez during the attacker’s time at Barcelona.

“Alexis Sanchez is a great striker,” said Illgner. “I’ve always liked him and he always made it hard for Real Madrid during his time at Barcelona. He is a very strong player with a lot of experience. For me he’s one of the greats of football today.

“The same goes for Arturo Vidal, who has shown at Leverkusen, Juve and Bayern Munich that he is a player with great heart and lungs. He wants to win every game, and he can perfectly settle a close match.

“Claudio Bravo has shown that he is a great goalkeeper. He came to light more at Barcelona, because at Real Sociedad he wasn’t seen as much. At Barça he showed the whole world the great goalkeeper that he is. For the national team he always shows this too.”

Chile have competed in nine World Cups – a total surpassed by only three South American sides, namely Brazil (20), Argentina (16) and Uruguay (12). La Roja’s best campaign came on home soil in 1962, when they beat Switzerland, Italy, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, before falling 4-2 to a Garrincha-inspired Brazil in a thrilling semi-final.