CUIABA – Gp B: Chile 3, Australia 1 —- Chile started like an trans-Andean express train in the Arena Panatanal but were, in the end, a little fortunate to claim a 3-1 win over Australia which placed them second in World Cup Group B.
Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia scored two quick-fire goals in the 12th and 14th minute but slack defending then allowed Tim Cahill the header which reduced La Roja’s lead As the Chileans failed to regain their earlier pace and verve so the Socceroos gained in confidence only to be defied by bad luck and the reflexes of goalkeeper-captain Claudio Bravo.
Chile’s victory was sealed in the closing minutes with a third goal, driven home from wide on the left by Jean Beausejour.
After an anxious second half, Wigan’s Jean Beausejour’s long-range effort added Chile’s third in added time.
Chile always looked likely to have the luxury of focusing on building a big cushion of goal difference ahead of their meeting with Vicente Del Bosque’s Spanish world champions when they moved two ahead inside 14 minutes.
But, up against Chile defenders Gary Medel, used in midfield by Cardiff, and Gonzalo Jara, who has just been released by Nottingham Forest, Cahill’s threat in the air helped stubborn Australia back into the contest.
Chile’s attack only justified its strong reputation in flashes and they looked far from secure at the back but they have a chance to take a big step towards the second round when they face Spain.
They took the lead when Charles Aranguiz managed to get in behind the Socceroos defence for the first time after 11 minutes, and when Eduardo Vargas headed down from the midfielder’s cross, Sanchez guided in at the near post.
The advantage was doubled when Barcelona forward Sanchez picked out Valdivia and the Palmeiras midfielder hit a dipping shot in off the underside of the bar from 25 yards.
But a slackness crept into their play and Cahill, renowned for his aerial ability in his time at Everton, rose above Medel to thump in from a Franjic cross.
The 34-year-old New York Red Bulls player was then denied by a low save from Bravo after he was found by Mathew Leckie on the edge of the area.
After the break, Cahill had an effort ruled out for offside before Tommy Oar’s cross was met with a firm half-volley from Bresciano only for Bravo to push around the post.
Chile came close to a third when Sanchez threaded through for Vargas and the Valencia forward’s poked effort was hacked off the line by Alex Wilkinson.
Cahill headed over from another Jason Davidson cross as Australia continued to threaten.
But after Mauricio Panilla’s shot was saved by Matthew Ryan, fellow substitute Beausejour found the corner with the rebound.
Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli said later: “We had a good understanding in attack, especially with Alexis Sanchez as the focal point, and we created several chances. After Australia scored we lost a little bit of momentum and we got frustrated.
“We didn’t play as well as we can – and with the calibre of our next two opponents, we will have to give a more complete performance. The prospect of playing Spain at the Maracana is electrifying.”
Disappointed Cahill said: “They got in twice and punished us but after that you could see their legs were going and we knew we could get something from this game.
“We really stood up strong. Not a lot went our way and it showed.
“It’s all about defining moments. This is the stage to do it and when you’re called upon you have to show up. We showed a bit of fear but we got in their faces. We showed some aggression, we’ll learn from this and go into the next game positive.”