Chile held off a spirited Australia to start the World Cup with a crucial three points, courtesy of a 3-1 victory in Cuiaba.
Pregame expectations of a comfortable victory for a strong Chile side over an Australia team in transition looked set to be forthcoming when Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia put Jorge Sampaoli’s men two goals to the good inside 15 minutes. But as their intensity dropped and their final ball began to falter, Chile’s adventurous tactics presented Australia with several chances on the break. Tim Cahill pulled one goal back with a trademark header before half-time. The veteran’s ability in the air continued to make him a threat against an undersized Chile defense, but Australia were unable to find a second and immediately confound critics who predicted avoiding humiliation was the sum total of their realistic targets. With Australian legs tiring, substitute Jean Beausejor fired home to finally put the result beyond doubt.
Still, there was plenty for coach Ange Postecoglou, handed the task last year of leading a new generation of players toward next year’s Asian Cup on home soil, to take from the amount of problems they caused one of the expected dark horses to make a real impact in Brazil.
His opposite number can be pleased to have gotten the first game out of the way. Yet with games to come against a Spain side wounded by a 5-1 mauling by the Netherlands before a meeting with a Dutch team on a high, Chile will surely have to improve. Certainly more decisiveness in the final third will be required, along with maintaining their high tempo and preventing their defense form being exposed.