Juan Antonio Pizzi lauded two-goal hero Alexis Sanchez as one of the best players in the world, though the Chile head coach preferred to focus on the collective effort of his squad after they rallied to beat Uruguay.
Sanchez returned to the starting line-up and scored a second-half brace as Chile came from behind to upstage Uruguay 3-1 in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.
The Arsenal star had missed last week’s draw in Colombia due to a muscle problem but overcame that injury to inspire the South American champions to victory in Santiago, taking his international tally to 36 goals – just one shy of Marcelo Salas’ all-time record.
“Individuals speak for themselves,” Pizzi told reporters post-match. “Alexis is among the best players in the world.
“[But] I am more in favour of emphasising the strengths of the group. And it is what allowed us to turn the game.”
Chile were forced to do it the hard way at home to second-placed Uruguay.
The Chileans fell behind to a 17th-minute Edinson Cavani goal, but Eduardo Vargas headed in an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
And Chile never looked back as Sanchez scored two goals in the space of 16 minutes, while Claudio Bravo saved Luis Suarez’s late penalty to help Pizzi’s men leapfrog Colombia into fourth position after 12 rounds.
Pizzi continued: “We value individuality, but I think today the great merit of reversing the outcome is based solely on the collective. Everyone understands how to solve things by doing it together. Sometimes a few stand out as Claudio, Eduardo, Alexis…
“From the second half we were the better team. We found our way, even though I feel it was a close game.
“The team know to build on their strengths. We have the personality and experience to keep calm. We know that with the players we can create options. And that was what happened.”
Chile are now a point clear of fifth-placed Argentina, and three adrift of Uruguay.
Arturo Vidal – under an injury cloud heading into the match and withdrawn early in the second half having picked up a yellow card which rules him out of Chile’s next qualifier against Argentina in 2017 – added: “Next year we hope to be first. We will fight every game as we always do.”
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