Chilean football guru Joel Sked goes head to head with Aussie writer Tom Smithies in this Expert v Expert battle...
Joel Sked on Chile: Ten of the 11 players who will take to the field against Australia are all but assured: Bravo, Isla, Medel, Jara, Mena, Díaz, Aránguiz, Valdivia, Sanchez and Vargas. The only doubt remains over Arturo Vidal, who had surgery on his knee last month. There has been much speculation regarding his fitness but if he doesn't make it, expect Felipe Gutierrez or Jean Beausejour to step in and Vidal to possibly appear later on off the bench.
Tom Smithies on Australia: The biggest question hanging over the Socceroos is whether Mark Bresciano will start after spending most of the pre-tournament camp battling a recurring back issue. At 34 and having traded Serie A for the UAE, Bresciano is in the twilight of his career but still pulls the strings as the key playmaker in Ange Postecoglou’s squad. Otherwise the key individuals will be goalkeeper Mat Ryan, after a sterling debut season at Club Brugges, Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak and Sydney-based defender Matthew Spiranovic.
Joel Sked on Chile: They come into the World Cup on the back of two warm-up wins against Egypt (3-2) and Northern Ireland (2-0). In neither game did La Roja shine. There were defensive problems in the opening match as Egypt raced into an early two-goal lead, while they struggled to break Northern Ireland down until the introduction of Alexis Sanchez from the bench. In both games Chile started with a back three, but they will play a back four against Australia. In all games under boss Jorge Sampaoli, La Roja have won 12 of 18, losing three.
Tom Smithies on Australia: To see how much of a battle Croatia gave Brazil in the opening game will be heartening for Postecoglou, after Australia matched Croatia for much of their friendly a week out from the tournament. Though the Socceroos lost 1-0 it was a hugely improved display from a soulless draw with South Africa 10 days earlier. It’s hard to read too much into Postecoglou’s brief tenure – a 1-0 win over Costa Rica and 4-3 loss to Ecuador having been 3-0 ahead were the other results. He has ruthlessly overhauled the squad and style since being appointed in November.
WHAT THE MANAGERS SAY:
Jorge Sampaoli on Chile: "The system we are going to use will depend a lot on our rivals. We believe we have a group of players that can give us the flexibility which causes confusion."
Ange Postecoglou on Australia: “It's a World Cup, the pressures are unique. The best teams can crumble and the most unlikely teams can rise. Chile are very strong but other factors come into it.”
Joel Sked on Chile: All five goals in the pre-World Cup friendlies were assisted by Alexis Sanchez. He comes into the game in fantastic form wearing the red of Chile. None of the assists were simple sideway passes, they were direct dribbles or penetrating passes. With Jorge Valdivia playing he will also offer a greater goal threat as well as he takes on more responsibility as Vidal strives for full fitness.
Tom Smithies on Australia: If Bresciano is the key going forward, Spiranovic must hold together a hideously inexperienced back four. Having played in the Bundesliga, J-League and Qatar, all before the age 25, he has long been the great defensive hope for the Socceroos – now he has to confirm the early promise and repel Chile’s high-tempo, in-your-face attacking threat.
Joel Sked: Since Jorge Sampaoli took over from Claudio Borghi, Eduardo Vargas has thrived, scoring 12 goals in 15 games (13 starts). Three goals have come in the two pre-World Cup friendlies as he highlighted his movement and electric pace behind defences. With both Jorge Valdivia and Alexis Sanchez feeding him through balls as well as Mauricio Isla and Eugenio Mena providing low crosses 2.55 for Vargas to score any time is a good bet.
Tom Smithies: Matthew Spiranovic to score at any time at 22.00. He’s hardly prolific, but at 193cm he will tower over almost every Chilean player. I'm not sure Australia will score, but they've spent a lot of time on set pieces in training over the last couple of days, with Spiranovic a target at corners and freekicks. If he can avoid the inevitable shirtpulling and blocking, the odds look good value.
Joel Sked: Chile 3-1 Australia at odds of 15.00
Tom Smithies: Chile 2-0 Australia at odds of 6.40
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