The FIFA World Cup almost saw two unexpected upsets today as the Socceroos gave a great battle against Chile, a team that was expected to dance to victory against Australia. After Spain’s debilitating upset at the hands of the Dutch, there was a heightened sense of optimism for the proverbial underdogs. Though they ultimately suffered a 3-1 defeat, the Australian’s have much to be proud of following the match. Chile may have been able to convert the win, but the Socceroos exposed some of team’s critical weaknesses defensively.
Up against the likes of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sánchez, the Socceroos opted for a 4-5-1 formation, flooding the midfield in attempts to disrupt Chile’s ball possession. Australia’s Tim Cahill was able to do what he does best, and wreak havoc for Chile’s defense by being so lethal in the air. However, Chile came out strong and secured two goals within the first 15 minutes. Sánchez capitalized on an opportunity when Australia’s Matthew Ryan was caught out of the goal, bringing the score to 1-0 in just the 12th minute. Jorge Valdívia followed with his goal from just inside the box in the 14th minute, putting Chile ahead of the Socceroos 2-0.
Vidal’s presence for his team’s first game of the FIFA World Cup was unexpected, as the player is just three weeks out of a knee surgery. Vidal did not perform up to his usual par, and came off the field in the 60th minute. It was probably for the best because the game was one of the more physical games today. Just last week Alex Wilkinson was logged saying that the Australians would not be afraid to get physical against Chile. Wilkinson’s words rang true as the Socceroos were issued three of the game’s four yellow cards.
Tim Cahill did what he does best and was extremely dangerous in the air. He got the Socceroos their first goal in the FIFA World Cup in the 35th minute off a solid header. Cahill scored again, however the celebration was cut short by a smartly made offsides call. The Australian team was able to foster some momentum and gave Chile some scares up top. The Socceroos’ offensive pressure increased in the second half as Chile had difficulty converting in their attacking third. Most of the Australian’s opportunities were a direct result of Chile losing the ball on the attack. Too much short passing in front of the box allowed for Australian defenders to step in and make the tackle. Unfortunately, just as things were looking up for the hopeful Socceroos, Chile’s Jean Beausejor drilled one in the back of the net in the 92nd minute, giving way to the final 3-1 score.
Despite the end result, Chile gave Australia a lot of chances to make something happen on the counter attack by holding the ball too long in their attacking third. The Socceroos were able to foil a lot of the Chilean short game around the top of the box, which in turn translated to a counter attack. According to Alexi Lalas, “Chile is a one trick pony” because, although the result of the match was what everyone originally anticipated, Australia was able to expose some of Chile’s critical weaknesses defending crosses and long balls.
Today’s FIFA World Cup match between Australia and Chile proved that the Socceroos should not be taken lightly. Fortunately for Chile, they were able to pull out with the win, owing largely to the two goals scored in the first 15 minutes. The final goal in added time will prove critical for Chile as group play continues next week. As it stands now, Spain is -4 in goal differential, and Chile and the Netherlands lead the group with three points each.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson