Football

Chile hopes to show off talent against Honduras

Chile and Honduras are set to clash on Wednesday in Nelspruit, in both teams’ long-awaited return to a World Cup after a long absence.

“People may say that Chile is the favourites, but on the pitch we’re going to do the right thing to get a good result,” said Honduran defender Maynor Figueroa.

“We’re going to play to win.” Chile travelled to South Africa as a confident team, full of hope of making it to the second round in their return to the tournament after 12 years.

With a colourful, attack-oriented playing style, they were impressive in the South American qualifiers, and their Argentine-born coach Marcelo Bielsa — who coached Argentina in the South Korea-Japan 2002 World Cup — became a national hero in the process.

Now, however, they have to deliver on a different kind of stage, in full knowledge that expectations will be worth nothing, and indeed may even backfire, if they fail to perform.

The excitement in football-crazy Chile could soon degenerate into frustration and disappointment if it is not accompanied by good results in South Africa. But players feel confident and up to the challenge.

“We want to show why we’re here,” warned playmaker Matias Fernandez.

Honduras are clearly the minnows in Group H, where Spain are the clear favourites and where Chile are expected to fight with Switzerland for the key second place that also grants access to the next round.

In their second World Cup ever, Honduras’ objective is to do better their performance of 1982, when they failed to win a match and were knocked out in the first round.

Chile is hoping to recover striker Humberto Suazo, arguably their best player, who was South America’s top scorer in the World Cup qualifiers. The Zaragoza forward was recovering from a left hip injury but is apparently fit again — although Bielsa might choose to bench him initially against Switzerland to be safe.

With or without Suazo, however, Chile is unlikely to change their identity.

“We are going to go out onto the pitch to attack,” said defender Gonzalo Jara.

On the opposite side, Honduras defensive midfielder Hendry Thomas feels they have the antidote.

“We have prepared ourselves well so as not to allow them to keep the ball,” he said.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 5:47:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/football/Chile-hopes-to-show-off-talent-against-Honduras/article16245262.ece

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