Group B has provided some really tasty matches, but these two sides will have been disappointed with the draw. Although many still see Chile as a good bet to qualify for the second round, the South Americans would have wanted an easier group, while Australia have already been written off by the majority. This match is crucial for both sides as an early win for Chile will put a lot of pressure on the loser of the other match in Group B, or both sides if it ends in a draw. Meanwhile, Australia will look at Chile as the easiest opponent in the group for them, therefore they need to pick up points if they are to have any chance of qualification.
The Chileans have impressed many in recent months after several good performances in Europe, albeit only in friendly matches. They managed to beat England convincingly, draw to World Champions Spain and played extremely well against Germany in a narrow defeat. These matches proved that the South Americans could compete with the world’s best sides and their chances will be even greater on their own continent this summer. Unfortunately, they have been handed a difficult group, but Spain and Holland will be extremely wary of the threat that Chile carry.
On the other hand, Australia have very little hope of getting to the next round, not because they are a bad side, but due to the quality of the three sides they will be facing in Brazil. They are going through a transitional phase with a lot of younger players coming in and they will see this tournament as a great opportunity to gain experience ahead of next year’s Asia Cup. Australia will play slightly differently than traditionally with a more pressing game, but they still rely heavily on Tim Cahill winning headers from crosses.
Chile conceded 1.56 goals per game in qualification. This is more than any other side in the competition, which suggests they will have a vulnerable back four this summer.
Australia have only kept one clean sheet in the World Cup in their history. Both of these stats suggest there will be goals in this match.
From the outset, Alexis Sanchez is an outside bet for the golden boot. He will get chances in front of goal as Chile play a counter attacking game with a lot of pace with the Barcelona forward as one of their key goal threats. He scored twice against England, which showed how he can perform on the international stage. The Chilean had a fantastic season in La Liga, scoring 19 goals and getting 10 assists in the process. If he takes that form into the World Cup, then Chile have a fantastic chance of not only qualifying from the group, but going a long way in the tournament. He will be pivotal for Chile on Friday as he runs at defences with pace and can be very productive in the final third.
The Australian captain has shown himself to be capable of competing with the best on a weekly basis with Crystal Palace in the Premier League. He has a ground 50-50 win success rate of 60%, an aerial 50-50 win success rate of 71% and a tackle success rate of 76.69%. These all highlight how good he is at shielding the back four and breaking up play. This will be very important in all three matches as they are facing three sides with excellent midfields. He will also be the man they look to for inspiration after he was chosen to lead the side this summer. The midfielder can also threaten in the air from set pieces and from range with his ferocious long shots.
Arturo Vidal is expected to miss the opening game with a knee injury. That will be a blow for the side as he is a key player for the Chileans, but they should have enough in the squad with the likes of Marcelo Diaz and Charles Aranguiz wanting to step up and take the responsibility.
Australia have no major concerns before their opening game after Ben Halloran recovered from his ankle injury.
I think it should be an action packed game, but Chile will run out winners. They have the class and their style of play is really effective. They are likely to concede though, as their defence lacks the solidarity that other nations have. Alexis Sanchez is likely to score in this match, while Tim Cahill may net for Australia.