Friday night in Santiago, Chile, the host’s national team came back to beat the visiting Egyptian national team 3-2 in a very heated World Cup tune up friendly.
The Chileans, the only cup bound team, but playing with several starters out of uniform, could not have asked for a more challenging opponent. The Egyptians seemed intent in showcasing their wares as if to point out how unfortunate they had been not to qualify for the Brazilian tournament. The hosts had a rough time with the speed and physicality of their visitors who seemed able to beat the Chileans to most headers and to all of their potential off sides traps for the entire first half.
The score at half-time was 2-1 to Egypt and the ref had handed out three yellow cards in what was a contested match between teams who rarely see the other’s style of play. Egypt took the early initiative and surprised their hosts with poise, speed and passing accuracy.
The score line soon reflected the state of affairs as Chelsea’s Salah at the 11th and later, Kamar at the 16th, both scored off of through balls that beat the Chileans’ off sides traps. These were pretty goals. Salah raced unmarked into the box, and before a trailing defender could intervene, unleashed an unstoppable left footed blast into the roof of the goal. While Kamar trapped an aerial pass and then chipped the onrushing goalkeeper for a beautiful long, chip shot score.
Diaz’s goal at the 25th was another pretty goal. The striker chipped the ball up to himself off a nice Sanchez cross. Diaz then whirled with the ball in the air and volleyed off the right post for the score.
The goal seemed to calm the Chileans who began to play their game and dominate possession. But the Egyptians were so adept at counterattacking that the host’s offensive forays always had to include a fast retreat option.
As the second half began, with a few substitutes for both sides, the pace and intensity of the game’s first half resumed. Several yellow cards ensued but also a higher gear and a much more determined Chilean side had taken the pitch.
At the 60th minute Vargas raced down the middle of the Egyptian box to time his one-time volley off of another brilliant Sanchez pass for the Chileans’ score–2-2.
Sanchez, by far the best player on the evening was playing inspired. He had to be as Vidal and other critical pieces were missing for Chile and the home crowd was getting anxious seeing their team having to overcome a two-goal deficit. But the Barcelona striker was up to the task and at the 78th minute he again found Vargas down the middle for the winning score–Chile 3, Egypt 2.
Three things came out of this game for World Cup bound Chile. First, they are dependent upon the midfield and offensive play of a handful of players and in their absence they simply do not have the same level of player as substitutes.
Second, a three man defense can only work if the opponent is less physical and shorter and in Australia and the Netherlands the Chileans will meet tall and robust opponents. Finally, the coach must realize that though he has a great contender, capable of finding a way to win even with depleted troops, this team works off of a small number of starter-quality players. Each special piece is critical to the team’s success and without that presence the team is not as strong. This team is motivated to win but to do so they will need to have all the pieces in working order. If they are intact come cup time they will be a force to be reckoned with, but if any key piece is missing, they will have a hard time making it out of their group.