Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Chile v Honduras

Chile 1 Honduras 0
Beausejour 34

A strong start for Chile, who lived up to their billing. Ivan Zamorano, star of Real Madrid, Inter Milan and the national team, has said this is the best Chilean side ever, even better than the 1998 team that he and Marcelo Salas played in. No pressure, then.

The Hondurans were rather less fancied. Their main star is Wilson Palacios, of Spurs, but they also have Johnny Palacios, of Honduran team Olimpias, and Jerry, um, Palacios, of Chinese side Hangzhou Greentown. That's right, there are three Palacios brothers in the squad, a new record. The last one came in on Tuesday to replace the injured Julio Palacios. Not really, he actually replaced Julio Cesar de Leon.

Wilson was the only Palacios brother selected today, but still, what an achievement. I bet Mr and Mrs Palacios are thrilled, but they're probably also a bit nervous every time they all get on the same plane. If there's a fourth brother, we could be looking at a Spielberg sequel called Saving Private Palacios. I do hope there isn't, actually, because being the only brother who wasn't at the World Cup would be like being the only Jackson brother who couldn't sing. And yes, Jermaine's suffered enough. Did I beat you to that one?

While we were waiting for the game to kick off, we had some wise words from Wayne Rooney, at a Press conference. I don't think there has been any stand-out team so far, with the exception of Germany maybe. So the stand-out team is Germany, then, Wayne. How exactly could the stand out team not have been an exception?

Chile started as they meant to carry on. Fernandez put a twenty five yard free kick just over after a minute, while Vidal hit a long range effort which swerved enough to make the goalkeeper mishandle it momentarily. Honduras had some moments too. Pavon showed some nice control on the edge of the box before rather wasting the shot, then Espinosa's effort was deflected wide.

The best chance, it seemed, fell to Vidal after twenty five minutes. A corner came straight to him, he had a free header, but it went well over.

Then Chile scored. It was hard to see what was happening in the dark (this was probably the most shadow challenged game yet), but as far as I could tell Isla got free down the right, and crossed it to the very Unchilean sounding Jean Beausejour. At the time I thought it came off his foot, then his head, then in, but apparently it was deflected off the defender who was trying to get in a challenge. A deserved goal, anyway.

It seemed to make the Chileans want to show their skills off even more. Valdivia, a delight throughout, tried a backheel into the box, which the waiting Chileans just failed to get to, then he ran in on a deflected shot from Sanchez, collided with the keeper, and only a rather dubious free kick decision stopped everyone pouncing on the rebound. The referee was the first poor one we've had, actually, and a number of decisions about free kicks were clearly in error.

He seemed to get the big decision right, though. Early in the second half Alvarez burst through into the box for Honduras, but he was tackled by Medel, who clearly took the ball away before he took the man.

Soon after that, the Honduran Pavon (in a game like Chile v Honduras, you can't rely on the name to indicate nationality) seemed to take a knock, and Georgie Welcome came on for him. Amazingly, the commentators didn't call this a Welcome change, presumably feeling themselves above such puns. Such Olympian restraint. I can't imagine how it would feel.

Chile carried on with the running and the passing and the shooting and the putting it all together. After 64 minutes they should have scored again, when a Fernandez free kick reached Vidal on the goal line. He played it back across to the excellently named Waldo Ponce, who contrived to head it into the only bit of the net the Honduran keeper Valladares could possibly have reached. A great save, but a great save he should never have been able to make.

You worried this might cost them, as finish after Chilean finish failed to match the quality of their buildup play, but in the end the game kind of drifted to a close. The Hondurans managed one Welcome break, but he was off balance, and his shot went high and wide. Otherwise it was all Chile.

They must have been pleased when the whistle blew, but when they play Spain they'll need to have sharper finishing than that. I'm hoping my Chilean friend Jorge will come and watch with me. His Dad was Basque, so he'll have a unique perspective on the game.

Next, Spain.

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