Chile have a mountain to climb against Brazil

Sunday, June 27, 2010

PRETORIA - If Chile want to continue their fairytale run at the football World Cup, they have a mountain to climb when they face five-time champions Brazil in their Round of 16 match Monday.

After Switzerland beat Spain in their opening Group H match and Chile struggled against Honduras, most pundits thought the South Americans would finish third in the group and crash out.

But a victory against a 10-man Swiss side put Chile in the driving seat and although they lost their final game 2-1 to Spain, they went through as Switzerland failed to beat Honduras.

In the next round, though, La Roja, as the team is called, face their toughest-test yet when they take on a Brazil side that is widely considered one of the tournament favourites.

To make matters worse, Chile coach Marcelo Bielsa will be without defensive stalwarts Waldo Ponce and Gary Medel, as well as midfielder Marco Estrada. All three are suspended for the game.

There is also a question mark hanging over Humberto Suazo, who is not yet fully match-fit and did not play against Spain.

Bielsa’s Brazilian counterpart Dunga, on the other hand, can again call on superstar Kaka, who was suspended for the goalless draw against Portugal after being sent off against the Ivory Coast.

Dunga is also expected to recall Elano, who missed the Portugal game with an injury and Robinho, who was rested.

Midfielder Tiago is aware that the game against Chile will not be easy. “Now the World Cup really starts,” he said, while Julio Baptista, who played in place of Kaka, added: “From now on it will be more difficult.

“It is very important to sore goals and push forward,” the AS Roma midfielder said.

On paper, certainly, the game is a no-contest, as the star-studded Brazilian side should have the better of Chile, who surprisingly finished second just a point behind Brazil in the South American qualifiers.

However, Brazil twice beat Chile, 3-0 in Santiago and 4-2 in the return leg in Salvador and are looking for a third victory.

For the away game in the qualifiers, Bielsa changed his traditional format of 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 in the hope of being able to curtail the Brazilian offensive play. The four goals they conceded is obviously an indication that his plan did not work and he will have to come up with something else on Monday.

Bielsa, who crashed out with his native Argentina in the first round when he coached them in 2002, says even if the Brazilian side will start as favourites, his side will try their best to stun the Selecao.

“Brazil is always a team to fear. The present side has added forcefulness and aggression to their creative footballing aspects and are even more dangerous.

“But we will do the impossible to ensure that things don’t come to an end too soon for us,” he said.

Whether that is enough to beat a team of the calibre of Brazil remains to be seen.

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