Much like Brazil, the hosts last night, Chile won their first game of the World Cup 3-1, but the scoreline alone does not truly reflect the story of their game against Australia. Chile were expected to win the game, but they were not expected to be hanging on at times and defending for long spells of the match against the lowest ranked team in this year’s tournament.
Chile has some very talented players on their team, especially Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal, but that gap in class did not show in this game over the full 90 minutes. Chile started the game well, and looked as if they could have put the game to bed by half time.
Sanchez opened the scoring on 12 minutes, and then Jorge Valdivia made it 2-0 after just 14 minutes. Chile looked like they were about to run riot and really start their tournament with a bang — they nearly did that, but not in a good way. Australia, to their great credit, responded positively and took the game to Chile as the half wore on.
The tactics from the Aussies were not exactly complex; get the ball out wide to the wingers, and cross the ball into the box early for Tim Cahill to attack. And although fairly straight forward, they were very effective and Australia managed to get a goal back through Cahill with those exact tactics after 35 minutes.
The worrying part for Chile should be the second half. They either took their foot off the gas, which would be worrying in such an important game, or they just couldn’t handle Australia, which would be even more worrying. They also made no adjustments whatsoever to the style of play they were up against and Australia’s success, if anything, actually grew as the game went on.
Cahill had a potentially equalizing goal rightly disallowed for offside on 53 minutes, and that served as more evidence of just how much Chile were playing with fire as they continued to do throughout the second half. In the end, Chile did get out with a win after a late Jean Beausejour goal put the game to rest. That was the only time they could rest, though, and absolutely nothing was guaranteed until that third goal went in.
The performance as a whole should be slightly concerning for Chile and their fans because better teams than Australia are still to come for them. The Netherlands and Spain are their remaining two fixtures in the group. If they continue to play with fire in those games, then inevitably, they will get burned.