Cuiaba: If Australia’s World Cup warm-up against Ecuador in London in March is anything to go by, their opening Group B clash with Chile, at the Pantanal Arena, could be a thriller.
The ‘Socceroos’, who took a shock three-goal lead against Ecuador before being over-run in the second half and losing 3-4, like to hit opponents with fast breaks and if they are to do anything of note in Brazil, they must beat Chile.
Chile, on the other hand, like to play in their opponents’ half with a fast and furious pressing game based on as much possession as possible. With big guns Spain and the Netherlands, who met in the final in South Africa four years ago, up next in the group, Chile do need to take full points.
The South Americans, third in their region’s qualifying group, are favourites against an Australian team in transition with the 2015 Asian Cup a far more realistic goal for the latter.
The odds may be stacked against them, but Australia, unshackled by any smidgen of pressure, are not short of self-belief ahead of the clash against a team they held to a barren draw on their World Cup debut back in 1974.
Playing in the same continent might be helpful to the Chileans, but the muggy conditions, here, deep in the Mato Grosso swampland, are not necessarily an advantage for them because the country has a more Europe-like climate.
However, Chile have a more talented squad than Australia with the presence of forward Alexis Sanchez and midfielder Arturo Vidal in their ranks. They may be thin at the back in a 3-4-3 formation but will aim to starve the opposition of the ball.
Until Wednesday, Vidal had been training alone, undergoing physiotherapy and doing specific exercises to improve the condition of his knee.
Vidal clearly was not in full training, nor striking the ball with any power, although he was kicking again with both feet. Vidal is a vital cog in coach Jorge Sampaoli’s team and his presence will be imperative in their games against Spain and the Netherlands if they want to progress to the knock-out stages. (AGENCIES)