If there’s one thing Alexis Sanchez doesn’t need it’s a helping hand in front of goal. His Arsenal team-mate Shkodran Mustafi was however kind enough to oblige with the kind of gift that simply doesn’t go unpunished with world-class players like Alexis around.
And so against Germany the 28-year-old added his 38th international goal for Chile, an all-time record. When you think of the quality that Chile have boasted up front in the past such as Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano you can appreciate the impeccably high standards that Alexis has now set.
He never shirks the challenge of turning out for his country – much to the chagrin of his club manager Arsene Wenger, who’d no doubt prefer to see him rest.
Rest is one thing Alexis hasn’t done for any of the past four summers. He played the 2014 World Cup in Brazil before consecutive Copas America first in his homeland and then in the United States last summer. Chile won both.
Now he’s back in this Confederations Cup – a tune-up for the World Cup next summer where Alexis will surely make it five tournament summers in a row. This landmark goal came on the occasion of his 112th cap – a number which ties him to fellow record-holder Claudio Bravo. It tells you something how golden a generation this is for Chile that 10 of their 11 most-capped internationals of all time are all active players.
And in the case of Alexis, Arturo Vidal and strike partner Eduardo Vargas they’ll be around for plenty of time yet. Indeed Vargas scores at a better rate for Chile than does Alexis and could well supplant him as the record holder before the World Cup. He’s on 34 in only 74 caps and is one of many performers in this team who never cease to impress in national colours.
Bayern’s Vidal is reportedly in Alexis’s ear trying to convince him to join the Bundesliga giants. He might well have come across a few whispers from those in German colours tonight having gone up against Joshua Kimmich as well as new pair Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Sule.
Chile and Germany contributed to the best match of this tournament so far and - even if Joachim Low is short a Manuel Neuer here and a Mesut Ozil there – there is still enough talent in the ranks of the world champions who should end up making the squad for their title defence next summer.
Only goalscorer Lars Stindl and back-up striker Sandro Wagner among this lot were born before 1990 with the likes of Leon Goretzka and Benjamin Henrichs expected to blossom over the next 12 months.
Their strength in depth is so pronounced that well-established players like Serge Gnabry, Max Philipp, Max Arnold and Max Meyer are away in Poland leading the under-21’s European Championship charge.
As demonstrated in Russia, Chile do not quite have the same number of talents emerging and will be reliant on this group for another while yet. No matter. As South American champions, they proved a match for the World Cup holders – the best that Europe has got to offer. Even though they were some 15,000 kilometres from their capital city Santiago, the new Arena Kazan must have felt like a home game. The stadium was almost full and it was hard to tell if more native Russians than Chileans had turned up.
They were the only ones making any noise having come here in their thousands. With Alexis in their ranks you wouldn’t bet against them making a deep run back here in Russia next summer either.