Another early kickoff, another empty stadium and another 1-0. Chile were excellent here, delivering the best team performance since Germany’s 4-0 shellacking of Australia on Sunday night, and but for some poor finishing in front of goal they would have run away with it.
Alexis Sanchez, the Udinese winger, has been a mainstay of the transfer gossip pages for months and it was easy to see why here. Much like Mesut Ozil for Germany this was an excellent team performance driven by an outstanding individual with the skill to go past players, pace to trouble defenders and an excellent eye for a pass. He was at the root of everything good that Chile did, though coach Marcelo Bielsa has to take a lot of the credit for organising his team so well. Full backs pushed up. Forwards dropped deep to collect the ball and midfielders got up in support. It was, in many ways, everything that has been missing from the tournament so far.
Honduras looked to Wilson Palacios for inspiration. The defensive midfielder who had such a good season for Tottenham did his best to reproduce his club form and did little wrong. Unfortunately the players around him were simply not up to the same standard and Honduran attacks broke down in a string of sloppy passes.
The only goal of the game came after 34 minutes, neat play on the edge of the box setting Mauricio Isla, the Udinese fullback, clear down the right, his low cross met by Jean Beausejour on the six-yard line. His tap in may have taken a touch off a Honduran defender but Beausejour will surely claim it.
At half time statistics showed Chile had enjoyed a whopping 70% of possession. By full time that would be reduced to 58% and no further goals were added, but the second half was still Chile’s. Sanchez continued to terrorise the Honduran defence, beating three men before rolling in Beausejour only for Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa to clear just in time. Carrizo found himself in front of an open goal but the keeper scrambled across to claw away his header from six yards. Chile did put the ball in the net again but it was ruled out for offside; in fact Sanchez had controlled the ball with his hand just before.
Chile were outstanding but will need to work on their finishing over their remaining group fixtures. Assuming Spain fulfil expectations and top this group, and Brazil do likewise and top theirs, Chile will meet Brazil in the second round, and will need to convert more than one chance in twenty if they are to proceed. Honduras are up against it now and face Spain next.