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FIFA World Cup: Chile win 1-0 against Honduras; are profligate with umpteen chances to score

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chile_fans.jpgChile started their FIFA World Cup campaign in impressive style as they got the better of Honduras by a slender 1-0 margin. Marcelo Bielsa's side was at its enterprising best as they ripped apart the Honduran defence with an alarming consistency but lacked the finishing boots to dispose off the umpteen chances they created. A first half goal from winger Jean Beausejour eventually proved enough for Chile to register their mark on the World Cup.

The South Americans are now off to the perfect start (though they would have preferred more goals), and would now eagerly await the 21st of June when they take on Switzerland in a match that could eventually be the ‘2nd place clincher'. Honduras on the other hand are all but sure to leave the Rainbow nation too early for their liking as expecting them to garner points against the likes of Switzerland (let alone Spain) without an attacking threat would be wishful thinking at best.

Group H of the FIFA World Cup 2010 kicked off today with the unfancied duo of Chile and Honduras taking on each other at the Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit. In a group dominated by the presence of tournament favourites Spain and a rapidly improving Switzerland side, it was imperative for both teams to go for the full 3 points in this fixture.

Chile started as the slight favourites in the match, partly due to their exceptional qualifying campaign in the South American region - the Chileans under the wily Argentine coach Marcelo Biesla ended a point behind table toppers Brazil. Their attacking brand of football saw them net 32 times in the qualifying campaign with Brazil shading this stat too by a solitary goal. In playmaker Matias Fernandez - plying his trade at Sporting Lisbon in Portugal - the Chileans had a match winner of proven pedigree. However, their attacking inclination leaves the South Americans open at the back; and are also prone to conceding cheap goals. A lack of height at the back also makes them susceptible in set piece situations.

Honduras on the other hand are the proverbial unknown commodity but there was a visible lack of an ‘X Factor' in their team. Their strength is their defensive organisation and the ability to soak pressure for long periods of the game. Barring Wilson Palacios and Maynor Figueroa - playing at English club of Tottenham Hotspur and Wigan Athletic - they seem to lack the class and talent needed to compete at the big stage.

alexis_sanchez.jpgChile started at their patent high tempo and their slick passing and attacking instincts were for all to witness. Matias Fernandez gave the Hondurans an early scare with a free kick in the 3rd minute. The shot swerved and dipped just onto the roof of the net with the Honduran keeper Noel Valladares looking rather relieved. The keeper was again in the thick of things when Arturo Vidal's (plays for Bayer Leverkusen in German Bundesliga) speculative effort from 40 yards moved alarmingly and Valladares held the ball on the second attempt.

Honduran veteran striker Carlos Pavon spurned the first real opportunity for his side in the 18th minute when he couldn't work the Chilean keeper Claudio Bravo after making space for himself in the box. Jorge Valdivia responded for the Chileans in the 21st minute but his goal bound effort was bravely blocked by Honduran skipper Amado Guevara. Then Vidal missed a free header from a corner in the 25th minute. The match was developing into an enthralling prospect with Chile having most of the ball and creating chances at will while Honduras tried their best to maintain their shape and not lose focus.

The inevitable goal for the Chileans came in the 34th minute when Jean Beausejour bundled in a cross from right back Mauricio Isla. It was a great overlapping run from Isla that created the goal for the enterprising Chileans. Beausejour was lucky as the defender's lunging clearance ricocheted off him into the net. The goal soothed the frenetic pace of the game as Chile took their foot off the gas while Honduras tried to hold on till the end of the first half.

The half ended soon after and the Hondurans had some real thinking to do. They lacked the attacking prowess and the numbers in the Chilean half to trouble the South Americans' defence. However, with the pace and trickery Chile possessed, it was a tough call for the Hondurans to commit more men forward. For the Chileans, it was the perfect match setting - Hondurans coming at them in search of an equalizer goal and leaving space behind for Chile's attacking players to exploit. An interesting second half beckoned.

The game resumed with Honduras putting Alvarez up front to accompany Pavon in the attacking third. The move didn't have any marked improvement as Chile continued to dominate and threaten the Honduran goal. With little happening to suggest a change, Honduras brought on Georgie Welcome for Carlos Pavon. 36-year old Pavon had struggled with the pace of the game and was slowly becoming a liability for his team.

Chile though were relentless in their pursuit of a 2nd goal that would have all but sealed the match. They had two great opportunities after the hour mark. First, the impressive Alexis Sanchez scuffed his shot wide of the goal after being played in by Matias Fernandez. Then central defender Waldo Ponce missed an inexplicable chance in the 64th minute. Fernandez's cross was headed back into the box by Vidal and with no challenge and from point black range, Ponce somehow contrived to find the last ditch dive of Valladares. It was becoming the pattern of the game with Honduras committing men and Chile being profligate to the core.

With the score remaining 1-0 and 15 minutes to go, the nerves were setting in for both sides. The Chileans almost seemed determined to waste all the chances they created. Honduras, on the other hand needed one opportunity to restore parity. However, the Hondurans were unable to hold on to the ball for long enough and create any meaningful opportunity. Chile ended as the eventual victors but they could have spared themselves the nervy ending if they had been a bit more composed in front of the goal.

Group H is now keenly poised. Assuming that Spain wins their three group matches (anything less would be a disappointment for  Xavi & co), it now seems a two way battle between Chile and Switzerland to take 2nd spot in the group. Honduras, for all their industry and workmanlike attributes lack the quality in the attacking third that is sine qua non in football at the highest level.

Teams:

Honduras: Valladares, Figueroa, Chavez, Izaguirre, Mendoza, Guevara (Thomas 65'), Palacios, Espinoza, Alvarez, Pavon (Welcome 60'), Nunez (Martinez 78')

Chile: Bravo, Ponce, Medel, Vidal (Contreras 81'), Isla, Carmona, Millar, Beausejour, Valdivia (Gonzalez 87'), Fernandez, Sanchez

Honduras 0-1 Chile
Beausejour 34'

Check out the Points Table

Also Read: Switzerland 1 - 0 Spain (Match Report)

Sanchez Photograph Copyright: Ryu Voelkel

Fan Photo by 2010 FIFA World Cup Organising Committee South Africa

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