React: Chile 1-0 Honduras
Chilean soccer is as pretty as their country.
After watching Chile slice and dice their way up the pitch against Honduras, I’m confident of one thing: the Spain-Chile game could, by itself, correct the scoring average of this tournament.
The results-oriented crowd continues to strengthen its argument about the scoring problems in South Africa. Brazil put up two goals but looked surprisingly mortal against the plucky North Koreans, and Chile, for all of their guile, creativity, and speed, only managed a single goal against Honduras.
That was plenty, though. Other than a brief spell in the middle of the second half, Honduras presented no threat to Chile despite the Chilean 3-3-1-3 formation that begs to be counter-attacked. Chile usually sent 6 forward in attack at full speed, sometimes sent 7, and their 3 defenders didn’t seem the most disciplined lot in terms of position. But only twice did I think “Ooh, this break for Honduras could lead to something!”
Chile suffered the over-passing disease, also known as Wengeritis, and passed up too many good chances for great ones during the first 75 minutes. Then, down the stretch, they were all too happy to fire long shots as they waited for the clock to tick down. Perhaps they were tired, but they were also lucky that copying the Slovakian late-game plan didn’t lead to a similarly painful equalizer.
Other than that tendency to ask too-intricate questions in the box, though, Chile were a joy to watch. They ran the give-and-go to great effect, especially in the first half, and their wingers dominated play with speed and decisiveness. Alexis Sanchez was the star of the game. Right before half, for example, he received the ball in the box, stopped on a dime, cut inwards towards goal, and fired a laser. Only a shoulda-been-a-penalty handball from Manuel Figueroa prevented the Chileans from putting up 2 in the first half. Sanchez seemed to be involved in most of the exciting build-up, and this Udinese winger definitely turned heads in the EPL and La Liga.
The goal came from one of the weakest finishes but best string of passes in the game. From midfield, the ball was batted back and forth, and within seconds Valdivia sent a through-ball to Isla down the right, who centered beautifully to striker Jean Beausjour. Honduran defender Sergio Mendoza slid in-between Beausjour and the goal, and the ball deflected off him back into Beausjour and bounced into goal. But the sloppy end doesn’t detract from the precise lead-up and the goal was well-earned, as was the victory.
Spain, you’ve got a surprisingly tough act to follow, at least in terms of entertainment.