Chile injury concerns before Cup match vs Brazil
BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Chile has injury concerns over key players Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal ahead of its second round match against Brazil at the World Cup on Saturday.
Medel has a muscle injury and the central defender’s problem “is not a minor problem,” Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli said. “If the game were today, he wouldn’t play.”
Sampaoli didn’t specify the exact nature of the injury. Medel has been a key player in Sampaoli’s defense, especially when the team has changed tactics, playing a 3-4-1-2.
Last month, Vidal had right knee surgery, and then injured his right Achilles tendon in Brazil.
Sampaoli said the powerful midfielder can play, but he’s not fully fit.
“He’s not close to 100 percent,” the Argentine coach said. “But we need him for a number of reasons: for his bravery, for him being a symbol” of the team.
Vidal started the first two group matches in Chile’s victories against Australia and Spain, but was an unused substitute in the 2-0 loss to the Netherlands.
Both Medel and Vidal are emblematic of Chile’s graft at the back and in midfield. On Thursday, forward Alexis Sanchez said the Chileans sometimes have an inferiority complex when it comes to playing big teams in world football and they need players “with a winning mentality like Gary and Arturo.”
Chile will try to break a 14-year jinx against Brazil, not beating the host nation since a World Cup qualifier in 2000. Since then, Brazil has won 10 of their 12 matches. They met three times in World Cups, with Brazil winning 4-2 in the semifinals of the 1962 tournament in Chile, then 4-1 in the last 16 in 1998 and 3-0 at the same stage in 2010.
Sampaoli said his team wasn’t intimidated, even by Brazil forward Neymar, who is joint leading scorer at the tournament with four goals. But the coach said his players would stay very close to him.
“It’s not that we want to follow Neymar everywhere he goes, but we respect him deeply,” Sampaoli said. “We will be very difficult and we will follow him and try to stop him.”
Defender Eugenio Mena said Chile is confident at the prospect of an upset against Brazil.
“We came here ready to face anybody,” Mena said. “Now we have to play Brazil. We’re convinced that we can win.”
Sampaoli was on the same wavelength.
“We want to fight and we want to win,” Sampaoli said. “We need to change history. We need to write new history.”