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World Cup

  • June 13, 2014
  • • 23:00
  • • Arena Pantanal, Cuiabá, Mato Grosso
  • Referee: N. Doue
  • • Attendance: 40275
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Chile-Australia Preview: Sampaoli sweating on fitness of Vidal

Chile-Australia Preview: Sampaoli sweating on fitness of Vidal

Carlos Parra/ANFP

The Juventus midfielder is struggling with a knee injury and could miss the entire group stage but the South Americans should still comfortably see off the Group B minnows

By Peter Staunton in Cuiaba

The fitness of Arturo Vidal has dominated the build-up to Friday's game between Chile and Australia. Arguably one of two world-class Chile players, Vidal aggravated a knee injury in a hasty return from injury against Northern Ireland last week.

There are fears he could even now miss out on the group stage entirely having undergone an operation in a bid to resolve the problem, after another Serie A-winning campaign with Juventus.

Despite the likely loss of their heartbeat in midfield, Chile are expecting progress from a group containing both 2010 finalists Spain and the Netherlands. That is a measure of the ambition and expectations of their quixotic Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli, who replaced the under-performing Claudio Borghi in December 2012.

Sampaoli is a coach who is determined to stick by his attacking principles and his teams - particularly his highly-successful Universidad de Chile side of 2011 - have borne the typical, pulsating hallmarks of his philosophy. Sampaoli has placed his trust in a number of key performers of that team like Eugenio Mena, Charles Aranguiz, Eduardo Vargas and on-field lieutenant Marcelo Diaz.

Complementing that band are some players who have made their names at the very top level in Europe. Aside from Vidal and Sanchez, goalkeeper and captain Claudio Bravo has earned plaudits in Spain with Real Sociedad and is likely to join Barcelona this summer.

If Chile have a settled side and a clear identity, then Australia come into the tournament as somewhat of an unknown quantity. German Holger Osieck made heavy work of qualifying the team for Brazil 2014 and a pair of 6-0 defeats in friendlies to Brazil and France cost him his job. He had long since lost popular support as a result of his dour football and reluctance to breed a new generation of Aussie internationals.

Replacement Ange Postecoglou is a renowned A-League coach and has wasted no time in replenishing the Australian stocks. Out have gone established names like Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill and David Carney and in have come 13 players with 10 caps or fewer to the tournament.

Expectations for the team barely stretch beyond a hope to avoid embarrassment and Chile are a tough first assignment for the side ranked bottom of all 32 qualifying teams.

Related

Field Report
Reader's Predictions
Top 3 Predictions
Players to Watch
Alexis Sánchez
Alexis Sánchez
Position: Striker
Squad Number: 7
Games Goals YC RC
4 2 0 0

Barcelona forward Sanchez scored 19 times as the Catalans were beaten to the Liga title by Atletico Madrid and acquitted himself well in a difficult season for everyone at Camp Nou. While he plays second fiddle to Messi and Neymar at club level Sanchez is very much the focal point of the Chile attack, having scored four times for la Roja in qualification. Sampaoli regards Sanchez as potentially one of the best players in the world and his pace and trickery should be enough to make the difference against a pedestrian Aussie rearguard. 

Mile Jedinak
Mile Jedinak
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 15
Games Goals YC RC
3 1 2 0

The 29-year-old midfielder enjoyed a stellar campaign for Crystal Palace, helping them to 11th in the Premier League table as one of their most important performers. He is not just a breaker of play, however, and his skill on the ball and leadership qualities will be vital as an inexperienced Australia attempt to put composure into their play in a cauldron of a group. Jedinak was appointed captain of the side ahead of the tournament and is one of only four players in the squad with more than 30 caps. 

Prediction

The battle to emerge from this group could come down to which team beats Australia by more goals. Sampaoli favours an unrelenting brand of attacking football and so the Chileans will explode from the blocks in Cuiaba. Little is expected from this Australia side and avoiding the wooden spoon in Group B will be their key ambition, but Chile will be too fast and skillful for the Socceroos and will emerge comfortable winners.

Editor's Prediction
Chile 3

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