CUIABA, Brazil - With Australia's scalp in the bag, Chile now set their sights on a big game kill in the guise of world champions Spain.
Friday's 3-1 opening success over the stubborn Socceroos in Cuiaba combined with Spain's crushing loss to Holland earlier in the day means Chile can inflict a fatal blow on Vicente del Bosque's men when they meet on Wednesday in the Maracana.
The right result in Rio will subject Spain to the same fate suffered by France and Italy as World Cup defenders who failed to make it past the first round four years on. It will also send Chile onwards and upwards out of Group B, irrespective of their concluding clash with buoyant Holland.
But as Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli was only too quick to popint out, his players will have to improve to stand any chance against opponents who will be desperate to put their title defence back on an even keel. "Spain have a superlative history, we'll definitely have to be able to play better than we did today," the Argentine who has masterminded a revival in Chile's fortunes when he was appointed to revive their floundering qualifying campaign.
He added “They lost their first match against Switzerland at the last World Cup.” “Against Holland they were totally defeated over the counters but I don't think this is a defeat that will define the path of the Spanish team.” Chile started brightly on Friday, with Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez scoring in the 12th minute before immediately setting up Jorge Valdivia for their second.
Tim Cahill's head put Australia back in contention and the Aussies were on top for much of the second half before Wigan Athletic's Jean Beausejour got a late third. "Alexis of course is always a plus for us, I'm glad to know he can perform.” "We had a good understanding in attack, especially with Alexis as the focal point, and we created several chances. After Australia scored we lost a little bit of momentum and we got frustrated.
"We didn't play as well as we can and with the calibre of our next two opponents, we will have to give a more complete performance." One of the main pluses from the Cuiaba game was the fitness of Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal. Struggling to make the opener due to an inflammation on the knee he had surgery on last month Vidal started the game, and while evidently still short of his best lasted an hour before being replaced. "Arturo's knee is good, we got him some playing time, and it’ll help get him ready for what's to come." Turning his thoughts to Wednesday he smiled: "The prospect of playing Spain at the Maracana is electrifying."