Alexis Sanchez, Jorge Valdivia and Jean Beausejour each scored a goal as Chile opened their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign with a 3-1 victory over Australia on Friday at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba.
The Chileans struck twice in as many minutes early in the first half, racing to a 2-0 lead before Australia fully settled into the match. But what initially appeared to be a rout turned into a tight contest as the Socceroos pulled a goal back through Tim Cahill late in the first half.
With Australia pushing for a late equaliser, Chile sealed the victory with Jean Beausejour's stoppage-time strike.
As journalist Graham Ruthven noted via Twitter, Chile were worthy winners:
Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli will be concerned with his side's inability to kill off the match for so long following such a strong start. More importantly, however, La Roja collected the full three points and will head into the second round of matches level with the Netherlands, following the Dutch's impressive 5-1 victory over defending champions Spain.
Up next for Chile is a match against Spain on Wednesday in Rio de Janeiro, a match that could—in a twist that would have seemed impossible before the start of the World Cup—see Spain eliminated from the tournament.
Australia will play the Netherlands the same day in Porto Alegre, with the Socceroos needing a result to keep their hopes alive.
Chile dominated possession in the opening minutes and took a deserved lead in the 12th minute via Sanchez. Charles Aranguiz crossed from deep on the right side of the box and the ball was knocked down into the path of Sanchez, who side-footed into the net at the near post.
Two minutes later, it was 2-0.
Sanchez was the provider this time, cutting through Australia's midfield before laying off for Valdivia along the edge of the box. Afforded plenty of time and space, Valdivia steadied himself with a touch before curling into the top corner for Chile's second.
Chile were well in control, but Australia soon gathered their wits. The Socceroos pulled a goal back in the 35th minute as Cahill climbed highest at the back post to head in from Ivan Franjic's cross.
Australia trailed 2-1 at half-time but were clearly buoyed by their goal. After the break, Cahill headed into the net again in the 53rd minute but was correctly ruled offside. Three minutes later, Mark Bresciano volleyed on target but Claudio Bravo saved in the bottom corner for Chile.
At the other end, Eduardo Vargas came within inches of scoring Chile's third in the 61st minute, only for centre-back Alex Wilkinson to clear off the line.
Cahill headed onto the top of Chile's net in the 70th minute as Australia continued to search for an equaliser. But instead, Chile found a third goal in stoppage time, with substitute Beasejour picking out the bottom corner to seal a hard-earned victory.
Note: Ratings based on a 1-10 scale with 1 being the worst and 10 the best.
|Chile Player Ratings|
|Felipe Gutierrez (for Vidal, 60')||N/A||6|
|Jean Beausejour (for Valdivia, 68')||N/A||8|
|Mauricio Pinilla (for Vargas, 88')||N/A||6|
|Ratings by B/R UK|
|Australia Player Ratings|
|Ryan McGowan (for Franjic, 49')||N/A||5|
|Ben Halloran (for Oar, 69')||N/A||6|
|James Troisi (for Bresciano, 78')||N/A||5|
|Ratings by B/R UK|
Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli praised his team's performance early in the match but noted that La Roja can still improve. As quoted by FIFA.com, he said:
We started well and put Australia under a lot of pressure. We had a good understanding in attack, especially with Alexis Sanchez as the focal point, and we created several chances. After Australia scored we lost a little bit of momentum and we got frustrated. At the end of the match, the players were happy but determined to do better in the next game. We were not at our best. We didn’t play as well as we can—and with the calibre of our next two opponents, we will have to give a more complete performance. The prospect of playing Spain at the Maracana is electrifying.
Australia's Mile Jedinak said the first 20 minutes of the match—when Chile scored twice—proved costly for the Socceroos. Speaking to FIFA.com, he said:
It's disappointing to be honest. We had a right go and those first 20 minutes ended up costing us. We were on top of them, we were so dominant. We had a couple of good chances, and their keeper pulled off some great saves. It wasn't meant to be, that was the difference.