Chile had to work harder than expected to clinch a berth in the 2017 Confederations’ Cup semifinals.
The Copa America champions were big favourites in their game against Australia, but there wasn’t much of a difference once the ball started rolling. Australia struck first, but Chile changed their approach in the second half and managed to escape with a 1-1 draw that saw them advance to the next round of the tournament.
Chile looked better during the first half
The game started with a lot of pace and intensity, but that was absolutely expected considering what was at stake for both sides. Australia chose a very attacking side, and it was clear they wanted to play as close to Claudio Bravo’s goal as they could – but their strategy did not work and they often lost possession in the middle of the pitch. Meanwhile, Chile tried to string plays through the right wing with Arturo Vidal, Mauricio Isla and Jose Pedro Fuenzalida, but they did not look accurate in the final third.
Chile’s first chance came in eighth minute thanks to Vidal. The Bayern midfielder struck a volley from inside the box, but his effort was parried away by Mathew Ryan. No one capitalised on the rebound, and the play ended without much of a threat.
One would have believed the intensity and the pace both sides offered would have led to several scoring opportunities. However, that was not the case. Australia was not accurate enough to pose a threat, and Chile couldn’t take advantage of the spaces they found in the final third. Aside from a few crosses into the box and some runs from Eduardo Vargas, Chile looked sluggish upfront.
Australia reacts toward the end of the first half
Australia had their first chance around the 35th minute mark thanks to Massimo Luongo, who broke free and found a path inside Chile’s box but Bravo saved the day for La Roja with an impressive stop. All signs indicated the first half was going to end with a draw, but The Socceroos had other plans and stunned the world scoring a few minutes before the break.
A defensive mistake when Chile could not clear the ball away led to a through ball inside the box, and James Troisi chipped the ball beautifully over Bravo to put the Asian champions on top. Chile could have equalised just before the break, but a header from Vidal was cleared off the line.
The first half ended with a 1-0 lead for Australia. But it was clear Chile needed to improve, because their lack of ideas was dooming them.
The substitutions paid off for Chile
Chile’s manager Juan Antonio Pizzi decided to shake things up during the break. Pablo Hernandez and Martin Rodriguez entered the game for Charles Aranguiz and Fuenzalida, respectively. However, it seemed the moves were not going to pay off as expected – Hernandez could not control the tempo of the game in midfield, and Rodriguez wa a non-factor on the right wing. Chile looked lost, and Chile could not adjust to the absences of both Aranguiz and Marcelo Diaz.
Australia took advantage of Chile’s problems to create in the final third, and they often caught the Chilean defence off guard. The Socceroos only tried Bravo through a few headers and some crosses into the box, however, so they continued to show the same deficiencies they evidenced in the first 45 minutes.
Australia looked comfortable playing long ball and using physicality to limit Chile’s creativity, but La Roja only needed one moment of brilliance to turn things around. A cross from Eugenio Mena and a deflection inside the box found Rodriguez, who managed to place the ball past Ryan with a soft touch into the bottom left corner. Suddenly Chile equalised the game, and forced Australia to change their approach.
The final minutes saw Chile playing on the counter, and Alexis saw an increase of his role thanks to his pace. The Arsenal star constantly complicated the opposing defence with his runs on the left, but Chile could not capitalise on the few chances they created. On the other hand, Australia moved their lines high on the pitch but could not muster a lot of danger in the final third. Their lack of ideas and creativity complicated them a big deal.
Chile closed the game out effectively, moving the ball around and limiting Australia’s chances to add another goal. The Socceroos looked awfully tired in the final minutes. Even though they surpassed their expectations with their overall performance, they fell short and finished third in Group B.
What’s Next For Chile?
Chile advanced to the semifinals as the second-placed team in Group B. They will play in the next round against Portugal, hoping to reach a final for the third straight year.
Chile: Bravo; Isla, Jara, Diaz, Mena; Silva, Aranguiz (Hernandez 46′), Vidal; Fuenzalida (Rodriguez 46′), Vargas (Diaz 82′), Sanchez
Australia: Ryan; Milligan, Sainsbury, McGowan; Kruse, Luongo, Irvine, Behich; Cahill (Leckie 57′), Troisi; Juric (MacLaren 62′)
Goals: Troisi (0-1, 42′)
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi. He booked Vidal (Chile), Behich, Cahill, Troisi, Luongo (Australia)
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