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Soccer-Another white-knuckle ride for enterprising Chile

Reuters

By Brian Homewood

June 13 (Reuters) - Chile lived up their reputation as great entertainers with another whirlwind performance in their 3-1 win over Australia on Friday.

Just as they did in 2010, the South Americans played a fast and furious pressing game which at times threatened to blow their opponents away but also left them dangerously exposed at the back.

For much of the game, Chile poured forward in waves, with seven or eight players joining the attack, even when shutting up shop might have been a more sensible thing to do.

The match continued the trend of open and attacking football at the World Cup, a refreshing contrast to the dour tournament in South Africa four years ago.

Although Chile's game is based on having as much possession as possible, there is nothing tiki-taka about them.

As soon as they have the ball, they sweep forward quickly, trying to outnumber their opponents down the flanks.

Australia also contributed to the excitement but that was more by accident design as two quickfire Chilean goals left them chasing the game.

Australia showed almost no early ambition but Chile quickly opened them up as Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia put Chile 2-0 ahead in 14 minutes.

Their first goal was typical of their style as it followed a 16-pass move that began in their own half on the left touchline, went back and forth across the pitch before ending up for Sanchez to fire home.

With Australia forced to open up and, and Chile going all out for a third goal, the Cuiaba crowd were treated to a non-stop end-to-end game.

Tim Cahill pulled a goal back out of the blue before halftime and Australia looked more dangerous, if less sophisticated, for much of the second half until Jean Beausejour scored Chile's third to wrap up the points.

The Chilean side is enjoying the legacy of Marcelo Bielsa, the eccentric Argentine who led them at the 2010 World Cup and who imposed their philosophy.

Bielsa's example was followed by a number of coaches in Chile including his compatriot Jorge Sampaoli, who made his mark with a tremendously entertaining and successful Universidad de Chile side.

Sampaoli has managed to pull together a highly competitive side even with players such as Valdivia and Eduardo Vargas, who have had checkered club careers.

But it is always a white-knuckle ride. Gary Medel is diminutive for a central defender, emphasised by the Australia goal when he was comfortably outjumped by Cahill.

And, even though they enjoyed 65 percent of possession and repeatedly got into good positions, Chile often showed a strange reluctance to shoot, often wanting one final touch too many.

It remains to be seen whether Chile, the smallest team in the competition, can overcome a battered and bruised Spain in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, and how the demoralised world champions will weather the Chilean storm in what should be an unforgettable match. (Reporting By Brian Homewood; editing by Justin Palmer)

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