5 Chile players to watch at the World Cup
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) Even with a strong team at this year's World Cup, Chile will be facing some huge challenges.
The Chileans reached the round of 16 at the last World Cup, and world-class players like Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez should make them better this time. But Chile was drawn into a tough Group B with defending champion Spain and 2010 runner-up Netherlands, making advancement more difficult.
The national team has been in good form recently, however. Chile lost only two of 15 games last year, and drew with Spain and beat England in friendly matches.
Here are five players to watch:
Arturo Vidal has become a mainstay in the lineup of Italian champion Juventus, helping the team win the Serie A title the past two seasons. But he has become a big question mark since undergoing right knee surgery on May 7. Doctors think he will be available, but few will know until just before the opening match.
Vidal has undergone an impressive transformation from being a stopper to making himself into a versatile player who recovers lost balls, sets up assists and often scores goals.
The attacking skills of Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez makes him Chile's most lethal offensive weapon.
''The Wonder Boy'' scored eight times with the national squad, including a double against England at Wembley Stadium.
Sanchez is also enjoying his best season in the Spanish league since joining Barcelona in 2011.
Gary Medel is a fierce defensive midfielder who helps make up for a Chile defense that is seen as its weakest link.
Known by many as ''The Pitbull,'' Medel is famous for his tenacious attitude going into every challenge, and formidable skills recovering balls. He is also known for a hot temper, which he will need to control in Brazil.
Marcelo Diaz, a midfielder who plays for Swiss club FC Basel, often goes unnoticed. But not to Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli, who considers him one of his most trustworthy players.
Known as ''The South American Xavi,'' Diaz helps organize Chile's tactical game by using his accurate passes and great ball control.
Jorge Valdivia has overcome discipline issues, which kept him out of the national squad under Sampaoli's predecessor, to orchestrate Chile's attack.
The midfielder, who plays for Brazilian club Palmeiras, is known for his vision and passing skills.
Sampaoli has warned that Valdivia, who is recovering from injuries and struggles to play 90 minutes, needs to be in top physical shape if he wants to play at the World Cup.
Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao