Spain 0 Chile 2 comment: Alexis Sanchez rewards the Chilean invasion with masterclass to savour
So the kings of world football are deposed and now we’ll see what Sampaoli’s princes can do
Wednesday 18 June 2014
After the Argentine invasion of the Maracana on Sunday, all Chile seemed to cram into the 75,000 seats here last night – by legitimate means, the foray into the media centre having been repulsed – and the atmosphere was, if anything, a notch up. The Chilean anthem almost took the new roof off the place.
Yes, from the outset it felt like the end of an era – or the beginning of another – with the great Xavi on the bench and Chileans swarming all over a defence now missing Gerard Pique, also dropped by Vicente del Bosque after the 5-1 defeat by the Netherlands, as well as the retired Carles Puyol, that craggily defiant symbol of the good old days.
It was another man from Barcelona, Alexis Sanchez, who made the difference, as so often he does for Chile. By half-time he had taken a hand in two goals. In fact only one of his country’s last 10 has not involved England’s principal tormentor in a Wembley friendly seven months ago; Sanchez has scored one and assisted in eight. He was without question the man of this raucously conducted match.
With less than 20 minutes gone a thunderclap rolled down the stadium’s expansive slopes to signal that Chile had taken the lead. And not in a shy way. With a candidate for goal of the tournament. We had seen one of those earlier in the day, when Tim Cahill volleyed Australia level against the Netherlands. But this was more of a team goal, a thing of gorgeous and serial subtlety, inevitably owing much to Sanchez.
Following a loose ball from Xabi Alonso, he stabbed a wonderfully incisive pass through to Charles Aranguiz, who might have shot but squared to Eduardo Vargas, who himself might have tried a close-range blast yet chose to wait and gently sidestep Iker Casillas before poking the ball between the goalkeeper and a lunging Sergio Ramos.
Had the crowd not been holding its breath as the move unfolded, it might have been punctuated by three “Oles”.
At least Casillas, after the horror show against the Dutch that had led to speculation that he, too, might be supplanted, could reflect that this goal was no one’s fault but his Real Madrid colleague Alonso’s. He did not enjoy such comfort for long, for, with the interval approaching, Sanchez assisted in a further breakthrough.
He took a free-kick from around 25 yards and struck it with such power that Casillas, in parrying, had his hands stung and could not achieve either distance or direction with the clearance. It went straight to Aranguiz and the net bulged.
Everything they had done, Chile had done well: pressing, tackling, passing, supporting. Jorge Sampaoli’s team had also taken, with aplomb, the only two clear chances they had created in the first half. And limited Spain to next to nothing. They had only to keep up the good work and avoid conceding when their energy dropped, as against Australia.
It happened. Right from the resumption. They were forced back – and lucky that, when Diego Costa expertly bicycle-kicked, the ball fell to the left foot of Sergio Busquets, which scuffed it.
Poor Diego. He chose Spain over Brazil and now he was heading back to his adopted land. Heading back from the bench, for in the second half he was replaced by Fernando Torres, to the delight of Brazilians in the crowd who booed him. Chile had regained equilibrium and now the “Oles” rang out
So the kings of world football are deposed and now we will see what Sampaoli’s princes can do. With the electric Sanchez around, they will trouble the best, as Wembley rather suspected they might. Accompanied by an awful lot of noise.
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