Chile's Arturo Vidal: I'm fit to face the Dutch
SAO PAULO (AP) Chile's star midfielder Arturo Vidal said Sunday he is ready to play against the Netherlands in his team's final Group B match at the World Cup.
The Juventus standout has been recovering from right knee surgery last month and has also hurt his right Achilles tendon during the tournament.
Vidal has started his team's two games thus far but was substituted in both.
''I am fine after the matches I have played. I feel better,'' he said at Sao Paulo's Itaquera Stadium.
He added that coach Jorge Sampaoli will decide whether to field him against the Dutch on Monday, but that ''I certainly feel like playing in tomorrow's game.''
Both teams have qualified for the last 16 after two victories, including against defending world champion Spain. Monday's game will decide the group winner - with the likely prize being avoiding a meeting with host Brazil in the next round.
The second-place team will meet the winner of Group A - probably the host nation - with the group winner probably facing an easier time against either Croatia or Mexico. A smoother path to the later stages of the tournament looms as well.
While a draw would be enough for the Dutch, Chile has to win outright to finish top.
Vidal, is also carrying a yellow card with him, said it was still too early to think about possibly facing the five-time world champions.
''It is difficult to talk about Brazil because before that we have a match much more important. Tomorrow we will have to play to win,'' he said, through a translator. ''If we play the same way as against Spain, we can make it all the way to final, but of course you have to prove that you really live up to your own expectations.''
Sampaoli said that Monday's match was important in more ways than one and would give the team ''hints as to how difficult the round of 16 is going to be,'' regardless of the opponent.
''It will certainly be a great match for the spectators,'' he said.
Chile had its greatest World Cup performance in 1962, when it finished third, and had strong teams led in 70s and 80s by legendary defender Elias Figueroa - widely considered the country's greatest player.
But Vidal said he believed he and his teammates were part of the best Chilean generation yet. Along with players like Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez and Valencia's Eduardo Vargas, Chile is looking to make history in Brazil.
''We have lot of players playing outside Chile and when they come together suddenly we have a team that is stronger than anything before in Chile,'' he said.
Follow Heller on Twitter (at)aronhellerap