Monday, 21 June 2010

Chile Turns On The Style To See Off 10 Man Swiss

Chile 1 Switzerland 0, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Chile has certainly not come to this World Cup to make up the numbers. La Roja picked up where they left off against Honduras with another energetic and purposeful performance. All that is required now is a little more composure in the final third of the field. As it turned out 1 goal was enough against a defence-orientated Swiss team who seemed content to hold out for a draw once they were, somewhat harshly, reduced to ten men.

From the off there was an urgency about Biesla´s men, always looking to set Sanchez scampering down the right or releasing Beausejour on the left. The emphasis is clearly on playing with as much width as possible and there were chances aplenty in both halfs.

The best opportunity in the first half fell to that man Sanchez but after expertly controlling a centre from Beausejour on his chest, he shot rather tamely at Benaglio in the Swiss goal. Before that Isla forced a smart save from the keeper with a blistering drive from outside the box.

But, not for the first time in this World Cup, the referee decided to upstage the players with some poor decisions. First he booked Ponce for raising his foot when it was by no means dangerous. Then came the real clanger as he sent Behrami from the field for what he must have thought was an elbow on Vidal. The Chilean midfielder must take a portion of the blame: there is no excuse for a player clutching his face and falling to the ground in apparent agony when the contact is, at best, minimal. Chile picked up six bookings of their own and the majority of them left the players scratching their heads in bemusement.

The only further disappointment from a Chilean point of view was the half-time substitution of ´Chupete´ Suazo. After all the hype about his injury his only real contribution to the first half was to get booked. He looked off the pace and only Biesla can know if he was fit to start.

His absence didn´t affect La Roja´s attacking spirit. Following the red card, Ottmar Hitzfeld sacrificied one of his strikers, Frei, to accommodate another midfield player. However this only served to play into Chile´s hands and for the second period they were camped inside the Swiss half. There was a roar all over the city when the ball finally found the back of the net. But the excitement was soon tempered by a glance at the assistant referee´s raised flag. The goal was rightly disallowed for offside.

Then it was Sanchez´s turn to try his luck. He robbed a hesitant Von Bergen, sprinted goalwards but then saw another farely lacklustre shot saved by Benaglio. Still, the men in red didn´t have to wait much longer to find a way to break the deadlock.

This time a marginal offside decison went in their favour. Paredas sprung the trap, skipped past the goalkeeper and from a tight angle delivered the perfect cross for Mark Gonzalez to head home. The cheers no longer had to be stifled and rather than settling for the victory it is to the players credit that they perserved with their high-tempo game and pressed for another goal.

Paredas was suddenly at the heart of everything but he could only blaze over when put through by Gonzalez. Then it was Gonzalez´s turn to be wasteful, going for placement rather than power from inside the box and seeing his shot comfortably saved.

There was a late scare when the Swiss substitute, Derdiyok, could only shoot wide with the goal at his mercy. But no matter, Chile held on and now sit pretty at the top of Group H with the final group game against Spain to come.

Again it was time to take to the streets for the fans who had put work on hold to watch the morning game. The streets were strewn with paper and everywhere you turned there was the blaring of a horn, a toot from a car or a joyous chant. There is a wonderful sense of the city uniting behind the team and of an immense pride in the style of football Chile is showing the world.

Qualification for the second round is now within La Roja´s grasp but Biesla will be sounding a note of caution ahead of Friday´s encounter. A point would be enough to see Chile top the group and avoid a probable Round of 16 match with Brazil. But a defeat and a win for the Swiss against Honduras would see the group decided on goal difference. Let´s hope Sanchez et al are not ruing some of those missed chances come Friday afternoon.

How they lined up: Bravo, Carrizo (Yellow card), Isla, Medel (Yellow card), Jara, Carmona (Yellow card), Vidal (Gonzalez, 46), Fernandez (Yellow card Paredes 64), Sanchez, Suazo (Yellow card Valdivia, 46 Yellow card), Beausejour

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