Nelspruit’s Mbombela stadium was basking in the wintery Lowveld sunshine as Honduras conceded to Chile. The final result, 1:0, does not reflect much reality, though: This game was always gonna have only one winner.
It felt more like a tough friendly match than the opening duel of Group H of the world’s most fought-for championship. It was as though Honduran players accepted an unwritten rule that Chile is a class above, and they shouldn’t dare attempting anything more than being the loyal opposition.
Chilean players are hugely talented and their mid-field will trouble many a fancier opponent. However, the commitment to finishing the bold and smart moves with something even remotely resembling a big chance or goal was almost off the menu during the Wednesday’s match. Chilean players would routinely drill the Honduran defences, only to adopt an “I don’t care approach” in the penalty box itself. Even the winning goal fits that profile: a brilliant, prophetic move that ended with Mauricio Isla crossing to Juan Beausejour, who needed the help of Honduran defender Sergio Mendoza to push the goal over the line.
Photo: Honduras’ Wilson Palacios (R) fights for the ball against Chile’s Jorge Valdivia during the 2010 World Cup Group H match at Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
Chile is almost certain to push into the next round now, as we can’t see Switzerland hurting them much. Their professional display saw them winning points with no injuries and no major hassles. They are in the sweet spot right now.
As for Honduras, well, at least one team should fit the Olympic movement’s founder Pierre de Coubertin’s famous words: “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
Honduras: Noel Valladares; Osman Chavez, Maynor Figueroa, Ramon Nunez, Emilio Izaguirre, Wilson Palacios, Amado Guevara, Sergio Mendoza, Roger Espinoza, Edgard Alvarez, Carlos Pavon.
Chile: Claudio Bravo; Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel, Waldo Ponce, Arturo Vidal, Carlos Carmona, Rodrigo Millar, Matias Fernandez, Jorge Valdivia, Juan Beausejour, Alexis Sanchez.
Man of the match
Here are the match notes
It’s Central vs South America here at the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.
Chile’s Speedy Gonzalez, the mesmerising CSKA Moscow striker, starts on the bench today. Honduras is the first country in the World Cup to include three brothers in its squad.
- 1st minute. Free kick to Chile. Wilson Palacios bundles Chile’s Rodrigo Millar off the ball. Matias Fernandez’s free kick dips very close to the goal, but goes high. That’s the closest free kick we’ve seen this tournament.
- 3rd minute: First corner of the match for Chile, but the Honduran defence are up to the challenge.
- 4th minute: A dangerous tackle by Carlos Carmona earns him a yellow card.
- 5th minute: A free kick for Chile, but it fizzles out as the Honduran defence rallies. There must be at least seven white Honduran jerseys in that penalty box.
- 7th minute: First shot at goal for Honduras. Chile’s Claudio Bravo catches it easily.
It’s been all Chile in the first seven minutes.
- 8th minute: Shot from distance by Palacios, and Noel Valladares, the Honduran keeper, who had a good view of the oncoming shot, doesn’t catch it in the first attempt. Well, the shot does bob and weave, but he should have caught it cleanly.
- 12th minute: Juan Beasejour can’t chase down a pass from Valdivia. Good thinking from the Chilean defence, though.
- 17th minute: Carlos Pavon, the Honduran striker, gets a good chance, but it goes wide.
- 18th minute: Another Chilean yellow card, this time to Fernandez
- 21st minute: A shot by Vidal is blocked by Osman Guevara, the Honduran captain.
Perfect conditions for today’s match, which is more than I can say of Johannesburg. I already miss KwaZulu-Natal’s humidity.
- 25th minute: Vidal’s header from a corner goes high. Chile’s set pieces are looking dangerous.
Is it just me or does Honduran assistant coach Mendoza look like Barack Obama?
Honduras can’t get any sustained possession, even though their defence is solid.
- 32nd minute: Chile counter attacks, then Honduras counter attacks, then Chile counter attacks. Lots of running, but still no goals.
- 32nd minute: A yellow card to Honduras’s Palacios, after a batch of offences. He gestures in perplexity at the referee, but he’s fooling nobody.
Photo: Chile’s Juan Beausejour (L) scores against Honduras during the 2010 World Cup Group H match at Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
- 34th minute: Well, it was inevitable. The red-hot Chile attack finally scores! Mauricio Isla gives Beausejour a pass after a brilliant run, and Chilean number 15 fires it in, after a great dose of help from Honduran defender.
- 36th minute: More scrambling from the Honduran defence, and Valladares is forced to charge out to assist his defence. Chile are in the driver’s seat in this match.
- 38th minute: Honduras are far too slow on the attack. It’s always three white jerseys versus five or six red.
- 41st minute: Chile’s Beausejour is left unmarked in the corner of the box, but his cross is cleared. There’s a second goal coming here.
- 43rd mibute: A shot by Alexis Sanchez deflects off a Honduran defender, and Jorge Valdivia tries to shoot, but fouls Honduras’s Noel Valladares.
- 45th minute: Free kick for Honduras, and they might want to go for goal here. It’s 33m out. Not a bad shot by Ramon Nunez, who forces a save out of Bravo.
The end of first half comes at the wrong time for Chile, but they should be able to get back on top of Honduras in the second half.
There’s a chap with a banana headdress in the crowd. Well, we are in South Africa’s banana province, in more ways than one.
- 46th minute: Chile’s Gary Medel fouls Edgard Alvarez, and there are appeals for a penalty, but it was a good challenge, and the referee waves play on.
- 48th minute: Maynor Figueroa tackles a Chilean striker inside the penalty box. The appeal for a penalty is inevitable, but it was a clean tackle. Good defence.
- 49th minute: Corner for Chile, but it is cleared by Carlos Pavon, who goes down in the penalty box. He didn’t have contact with anyone else. Just his age catching up with him.
- 51st minute: Millar goes off for Gonzalo Jara.
- 54th minute: Free kick for Chile as Alexis Sanchez is fouled. Fernandez’s shot is defended well.
- 56th minute: Sanchez is brought down just outside the penalty area, but the referee doesn’t give it. It looks like a free kick to me.
- 59th minute: Pavon comes off for Georgie Welcome. I’ve already made one pun…
- 61st minute: Sanchez beats two defenders to stick it just wide of Valladares’s goal posts. Fast and fluent attack by Chile, and it would have been quite a goal.
- 63rd minute: Alvarez is caught offside. Hmmm. That was a close call.
Photo: Honduras’ Goalkeeper Noel Valladares makes a save from the attack of Chile’s Waldo Ponce (L) during their 2010 World Cup Group H match at Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti
- 63rd minute: Free kick for Chile. Vidal connected, passing it to Waldo Ponce who headers from point blank range. Valladares saves it, more by instinct than anything else How did Ponce not score?
- 65th minute: Honduran substitution. Hendry Thomas replaces the captain Guevara.
- 68th minute: Isla is denied a shot, centimetres in front of goal. Honduras are defending for their lives.
- 69th minute: Corner for Honduras, but Ponce defends it, with his hand! Ball to hand.
- 71st minute: Jorge Valdivia limps off, clutching his thigh.
- 72nd minute: Fernandez’s shot is blocked, after some hesitation. Faffing around!
- 75th minute: Sanchez tries to header a cross in, again right in front of goals, but it falls to Valdivia, who nudges it in, but is judged offside.
Honduras have clearly lost all wind in their sails, allowing Chile to play crosses deep into the Honduran penalty area.
- 77th minute: Nunez comes off for Walter Martinez. Last change for Honduras.
- 79th minute: Sanchez rather greedily tries a shot from distance, opting not to pass it to his fellow team mates, and blasts it wide.
- 80th minute: Arturo Vidal comes off for Pablo Contreras.
A defensive swap by Chile. Looks like they’re looking to protect their lead, rather than fighting for a second goal. Did the Slovakia vs New Zealand game teach them nothing?
The Honduran fans are praying desperately. Not that I blame them, this being their first World Cup appearance in 28 years. Moments like this will bring religion out in you.
- 86th minute: Valdivia comes off, and Speedy Gonzalez comes on.
- 87th minute: free kick for Chile as Beaesejour is brought down. Ponce buries the shot into the Honduran defensive wall.
- 88th minute: Fernandez lets a golden opportunity in front of goal pass him by.
- 89th minute: A rare strike at goal for Honduras, but Welcome’s shot is wide.
- 91st minute: Gonzalez attempts a shot, after setting himself up well, but it’s wide.
- 92nd minute: Corner for Honduras as they attempt a last-minute scramble, but the Chilean defence gets to it first.
- 92nd minute: Good shot at goal for Gonzalez but it’s wide.
End of the second half.
The first Chilean World Cup win in almost 50 years. The look on former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s face says it all.
Report by Branko Brkic. Notes by Sipho Hlongwane.
Photo: Honduras’ Wilson Palacios (L) battles for the ball with Chile’s Alexis Sanchez during a 2010 World Cup Group H soccer match at Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit June 16, 2010. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado