Chile need shooting practice before Swiss clash
NELSPRUIT, South Africa (Reuters) -- After 48 years without a World Cup victory, the Chileans are mightily relieved to have won their opener against Honduras, but are also a little concerned about their inability to kill off their opponents.
Chile dominated Wednesday's Group H match in Nelspruit and created a hatful of chances, but their only strike came from a slightly fortunate goal in the 34th minute, the ball ricocheting off forward Jean Beausejour into the Honduran net.
They know they will face far tougher challenges against a jubilant Swiss side in Port Elizabeth on Monday, and a wounded and potentially desperate Spain in Pretoria on June 25.
If Group H comes down to goal difference, Marcelo Bielsa's side might live to regret those squandered chances in their 1-0 win over Honduras.
"That's something you can't foresee, but if indeed the group starts to unfold that way we may perhaps suffer from the fact that we didn't score more," Bielsa acknowledged in his post-match news conference.
Wing back Arturo Vidal said the most important thing was to have taken the three points "but we do need to improve a lot in front of goal because we had so many chances that we didn't take, so that's what we're going to be working on over the next four days: scoring more goals."
Chile will be helped by the fact that their leading striker Humberto Suazo will almost certainly return from a hamstring injury to face the Swiss. Suazo scored 10 times in the South American qualifying campaign, more than any other player on the continent.
His return will probably relegate creative midfielder Jorge Valdivia to the bench, with Matias Fernandez remaining in the playmaker role behind Chile's three-pronged attack.
"We could have done more to make things easier for ourselves but we got the three points so we're happy with that," Fernandez said when asked about his side's failure to convert their chances.
Ironically, Chile's problem in the qualifiers was not scoring goals - it was conceding them.
They banged in 32 goals in 18 qualifying matches, only one fewer than Brazil. But they also conceded 22 -- more than any of the other four South American sides to have qualified for the finals.
Since then, however, they have tightened up their defense. In their last seven matches, they have conceded only one goal.
With Switzerland having upset Spain in Wednesday's other Group H match, the Chileans could really do with a result against the Swiss -- and preferably, in the process, more than one goal.