The FourFourTwo Preview: Chile vs Australia
Group B's less celebrated components: one dark horse, one lamb to the slaughter.
Fifty-two years ago, way back in the black and white days of 1962, Chile finished third in the World Cup finals, beating Yugoslavia for the wooden spoon as Brazil hoisted the Jules Rimet. A bright international future appeared to stretch before them, but it never got that good again.
In the intervening 52 years, Chile have played only 17 more games in World Cup finals – winning two, drawing six and being beaten nine times. It's a pathetic return that means Chileans should enter this World Cup with their expectations downgraded accordingly. And yet, despite being pulled out among Spain and Holland, they kick off confident of progressing through Group B. If nothing else, they'll kick off confident of making it three wins in 18, because Australia are simply making up the numbers.
Built around the emerging next-gen talents of Tom Rogic, Mathew Leckie and several other new largely unknown names, this is an Australia in development, a team with one eye on the Asian Cup they host next year. No one expects anything other than three straight defeats. A goal would be nice.
Getting out of their own half might be an achievement against Chile, a team programmed by Jorge Sampaoli to attack like extras in 300. Their Plan A involves pressing very far into the opposition territory, pushing them back until they inevitably buckle. They have no real Plan B and they may find that Plan A doesn't work quite so well against Spain and Holland in their other two group games. It could be one way traffic.
What the media say
US media stat crunchers Bloomberg Sports have rated the four Group B teams' hopes of winning the trophy. They read: Spain 9.1%; Netherlands 3.9%; Chile 1.2%; Australia 0%.
Key battle: Jorge Valdivia vs Mile Jedinak
Temperamental 'false nine' playmaker Jorge Valdivia may well be the man to add artistry to Chile's intensity, providing the ammunition for the goal-troubling King Arthur, Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas. Valdivia is not expected to start against Spain or Holland but should be in from the off in this one, making the disruptive influence of Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak key. The 'Silent Assassin' will have his work cut out.
Facts and figures
- Australia’s first ever point in a World Cup group came courtesy of a forgotten 0-0 draw against Chile in June 1974. It remains their only clean sheet in 10 World Cup finals matches.
- Good news for Spain, Holland but probably not Australia: Chile have lost against a subsequent finalist in each of their last 3 World Cups – West Germany in 1982, Brazil in 1998 and Spain in 2010.
- Australia’s last 8 World Cup games have produced 7 red cards (4 for the Socceroos, 3 for their opponents). Given Chile's intense approach often breeds ill-discipline, expect fireworks.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Chile will be far too hot for these Aussies. At least 2-0 to the South Americans.