What: Chile vs. Switzerland, Group H, Matchday 2
When: Monday, June 21, 2010, 10 am ET
Where: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Switzerland made themselves the talk of the tournament when they beat title favorites Spain in their opener. It was a near-perfect performance, with a tight defense—despite a first-half injury to center back Philippe Senderos—and a clever counterattack led by new Seattle Sounders striker Blaise Nkufo.
It will require a similar performance when they face Chile, because la Roja are one of the most dynamic attacking sides in the tournament. Fearless, they pressed the attack against Honduras, though they were only able to strike the back of the net once, through Club América striker Jean Beausejour.
The biggest news for Chile is that striker Humberto Suazo, who missed the opener with a left thigh injury, will be on the bench against the Swiss. That should give the side a boost, though his is far from match fit.
It shouldn’t matter, though, if Alexis Sanchez continues his scintillating form. The young Udinese striker—where he plays with Swiss midfield general Gökhan Inler—can create chances out of nothing. Against Honduras, he was at the center of nearly every forward move for Chile.
Manager Marcelo Bielsa would like to attack from the opening whistle but he is wary of the possibility of Switzerland’s defending and countering like they did against Spain. Or not.
“It’s not certain that tomorrow's match will be a replica,” he said. “Switzerland has in the past played other matches with different tactical attitudes; it depends on the opponent."
On Friday, it was announced that Senderos’ ankle injury will keep him out of the rest of the group stage. It’s a big loss, but his replacement, Steve von Bergen, filled in admirably, helping contain the Spanish attack.
Striker Alexander Frei will again be unavailable. But regardless of the health of various players, the side’s mindset is of the greatest importance. The win over Spain—coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said he copied tactics used by the USA in their win over the Spaniards at the Confederations Cup—has Switzerland dreaming of big things yet remaining composed.
“[The Spain win] is behind us now,” goalkeeper Diego Benaglio said. “It’s already in the past as far as I'm concerned. We need to keep our feet on the ground and continue to do the right things in training and in our two upcoming games.”
Players to Watch
Chile: Jorge Valdivia. The Al-Ain creative mastermind got the nod over Matías Fernández, and it should happen again. He will have his work cut out for him against Inler.
Switzerland: Gelson Fernandes. The exciting 23-year-old winger scored the goal that beat Spain, and his speed on the flank and link up play with Nkufo could cause some problems for a stiff Chilean defense.
This match could be a replica of the one between Spain and Switzerland, except for the fact that the Swiss are no longer a surprise. An experience coach like Bielsa should be able to install a gameplan for Chile to push through and get that much closer to the round of 16.