Chile got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a dominant performance against Honduras in Nelspruit today. Despite the win, Marcelo Bielsa said his side will need to show more if they are to progress from Group H.
Jean Beausejour’s first half tap in was enough to give La Roja a 1-0 win but they should have scored more having dominated possession and territory throughout. Chile spurned several good chances to boost their goal difference in a group that could go down to the wire.
“I think we won deservedly. We could have scored more goals and we controlled the match well. In defence we did not have to undergo any stressful situations and we attacked constantly.
“But we have to go on in the competition otherwise it will not be remembered as an achievement. You cannot foresee it, but if the number of goals becomes important in this group, we may rue that we did not score all the goals we should have” Bielsa said after the game.
Chile went into the game with a back four, something they had only previously done in friendlies. The diversion from three at the back did nothing to blunt their attacking threat however as they blasted out of the blocks.
As early as the third minute, Valladares in the Honduras goal had to stretch to keep out a well hit free kick from Chile trequartista Matias Fernandez. Arturo Vidal then missed a decent headed chance after a corner from Alexis Sanchez.
Sanchez was outstanding throughout and deservedly named man of the match. His trickery and pace was a constant threat that forced Honduras to mark him in groups in a bid to contain his influence. He linked well with Jorge Valdivia too, who, to the surprise of most onlookers started the game at centre forward in place of the injured Humberto Suazo. The playmaker-by-trade couldn’t replicate Suazo’s goal threat but led the line fairly well.
The breakthrough finally came in the 34th minute. Fernandez took possession at the edge of the box and played a perfectly weighted through ball inside the full back for Vidal powering down the right. He hit the byline and drove a low cross towards Beausejour at the near post who bundled it in from close range.
From there it looked for all the world that the floodgates would open as Chile dominated possession and territory. Honduras defended stoutly however despite strong claims for a penalty against Maynor Figueroa for handball right on half time.
The pattern continued in the second half and Sanchez narrowly missed when clean through on goal before Waldo Ponce failed to convert an absolute sitter from about a yard out. Fernandez hit a free kick to the back post which Vidal headed back across goal. Ponce’s stooping header forced a spectacular full stretch save from Valladares but he should have had no chance at all.
From there Chile seemed to take their foot off the gas against a side featuring seven home based semi-professionals that seemed to tire. The Central Americans rarely threatened an equaliser as Chile reverted back to their customary back three in response to their opponent’s attempts at attacking substitutions.
The result was never in doubt but in light of Switzerland’s victory over Spain, the margin may be a cause of regret for Chile. They face the Swiss at the same stadium on Monday and a victory in that game is of paramount importance. Failure to beat Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side would probably leave Chile needing a win from their final game against a Spain side with everything to play for.
While Chile’s own positive result was a mere formality from the moment Beausejour found the net, the huge upset that occurred later in the day means the future of Group H is now far from certain.