Chile vs. Australia: 6 Things We Learned
Chile began their 2014 World Cup campaign with a well-contested 3-1 victory over Australia in Group B on Friday.
Chile raced into an early two-goal lead through strikes from Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia, but Australia got one back through Tim Cahill before half-time and gave as good as they got during the second half.
A late strike from Jean Beausejour sealed the three points for Chile.
Here are six things we learned from Chile's 3-1 victory over Australia.
Chile's Attack Are a Joy to Watch
Anyone who keeps an eye on South American football would have been aware of the energy and intensity with which Chile go forward. But on Friday, a global audience was introduced to the wonderful attacking play of Jorge Sampaoli's side.
With the full-backs bombing up the flanks, the forwards regularly switching positions and the midfielders eager to provide further support, Chile often have as many as seven players in the final third.
The intensity of their attacking play dropped after their early breakthroughs, but that opening salvo provided a tantalising glimpse of what this side is capable of.
Chile Struggle To Defend High Crosses
As per MLS Soccer, Chile have the shortest squad of any team at the World Cup, and that was evident in the trouble they had defending crosses on Friday.
Prior to the match, defender Gary Medel had been confident that good concentration and timing would be sufficient to overcome their lack of height, as per CDF (in Spanish).
That did not, however, prove to be the case, as Australia created numerous opportunities from crosses into the area.
Tim Cahill rose above Medel to head home Ivan Franjic's cross for Australia's goal on 35 minutes.
Cahill (twice) and Mathew Leckie both headed over during the second half, while Mark Bresciano struck a sweet far-post half-volley that was superbly saved by Claudio Bravo.
Jorge Sampaoli left his tallest centre-back, Marcos Gonzalez, out of his final squad, so there is little obvious solution to this issue. It could yet prove to be Chile's undoing.
Chile Need to Maintain Intensity for Longer
Chile were worthy of their half-time lead, having scored two goals and created the better chances of the period. They were, however, less impressive after the break, providing Australia with a route back into the match.
It was Chile's lack of intensity in the second half that allowed Australia to get numbers forward into the final third and produce the crosses that led to their best chances on goal.
Jorge Sampaoli will know that his side cannot afford to drop their energy levels to the same degree against their next opponents, Spain, who will come into the match determined to make amends for their humiliation at the hands of the Netherlands.
It is impossible to play at a breakneck pace for a full 90 minutes, but Chile will need to maintain their intensity for longer if they hope to get positive results in their remaining group stage matches.
Australia's Final Ball Has to Be Better
Given the quality of their group stage opponents, the majority of Australia's opportunities are likely to come on the counter-attack. That was certainly the case during the first half on Friday, and on a couple of occasions after the break.
Ange Postecoglou's side did, however, fail to take full advantage of the chances they created due to the poor quality of their final balls into the area.
Mathew Leckie and Tommy Oar both got themselves into good positions on numerous occasions only to overhit their pass or cross, while Leckie was guilty of dwelling in possession after skipping past Marcelo Diaz for a clear run at the Chilean defence at one point during the second half.
Opportunities are likely to be few and far between against both the Netherlands and Spain, and Australia must ensure they are more careful with their final ball if they want to have any chance of getting a surprise result against either opponent.
Australia Are Better Suited To A Proactive Approach
Australia showed Chile a great deal of respect during the first half, standing off, defending deep and allowing their opponents possession of the ball.
It was an unsuccessful approach. Given time to choose their options, Chile's talented attacking players made light work of the Australian defence, scoring twice and creating some other good situations.
Australia were far more proactive after the break, pressing in midfield, forcing Chile back and getting numbers forward into the final third.
Experienced midfielder Mark Bresciano became more influential. He won the ball high up the field on a couple of occasions and regularly moved forward into the penalty area in support of lone striker Tim Cahill.
Ange Postecoglou's young and energetic side looked far more comfortable playing in this manner, and indeed, they may consider themselves slightly unfortunate not to have forced an equaliser.
It would take a brave man to play in a similar way against the Netherlands and Spain. But with Australia's chances of progressing currently sitting at next to zero, Postecoglou may as well play to his side's strengths.
It’s Going to Be a Long World Cup for Matthew Ryan
Matthew Ryan was forced to pick the ball out of the back of his net two times inside the opening quarter hour and had done so once more by the time the final whistle blew in Cuiaba.
The Australian defence were pulled all over the place by a vibrant Chilean attack during the first half. They frequently left Ryan exposed—a feeling he is likely to grow accustomed to over the next week or so, with the Netherlands and World Cup holders Spain still to come.
Australia improved in all aspects of their game after the break, but it would still not be a surprise if Ryan came away from the tournament with a spot of backache after regularly stooping to collect the ball from the inside of his goal.