Chile beats Honduras 1-0 after Beausejour tap-in
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
NELSPRUIT, South Africa – Even after Chile broke a 48-year World Cup victory drought, its coach was searching for more.
Jean Beausejour scored the only goal and Chile beat Honduras 1-0 Wednesday for its first World Cup win since it hosted the 1962 tournament. In a free-flowing match Wednesday, Chile won the opening game of Group H after Beausejour tapped in a cross from Mauricio Isla in the 34th minute.
Not enough, coach Marcelo Bielsa said.
“We could have scored more goals and we were on top,” Bielsa said. “You can’t foresee what will happen, but if the group is decided in that way (on goal difference), then we will rue the chances we missed.”
Chile came close to doubling its lead on several occasions. In the 62nd minute, Alexis Sanchez sent a clear-cut chance wide after he was put in free by ever-dangerous playmaker Jorge Valdivia. In the 64th minute, defender Waldo Ponce saw his close-range header saved brilliantly by goalkeeper Noel Valladares.
“We’re very happy, and we have to enjoy this triumph,” Sanchez said. “But we have to move ahead and win the game against our next rival (Switzerland).”
Chile’s last World Cup victory was on June 16, 1962, when it came in third by beating Yugoslavia. This is Chile’s first World Cup since 1998, when three draws sent it into the second round.
Chile was on the offensive almost from the start, with midfielder Matias Fernandez threatening as early as the second minute with a free kick that curled just over the crossbar after Valdivia was fouled by Wilson Palacios 30 yards from goal.
Valdivia’s tap-in in the 75th minute was ruled offside.
Honduras seldom showed any spark against a well-organized Chile defense led by Gary Medel. Honduras was restricted to long-range efforts, primarily from lone striker Carlos Pavon.
But Honduras’ best chance came from midfielder Ramon Nunez, whose free kick in first-half injury time was tipped over the net by keeper Claudio Bravo.
“It’s a fair result,” Honduras defender Sergio Mendoza said. “We didn’t have a clear chance at goal. We knew we could lose this match, but qualifying out of the group is not impossible.”
Chile’s attacking style was evident during the South American qualifiers, when it finished in second place behind Brazil. At times Wednesday, it looked as dangerous at the five-time champions.
Known as “El Loco” for his obsessive knowledge of soccer and attention to detail, Coach Marcelo Bielsa – who guided his native Argentina in the 2002 World Cup – is noted for his attacking style. A banner in the stadium showed the regard some fans have for him: “Marcelo Bielsa, Chile thanks you.”
“We’ll try to win the next game because the objective is to pass to the next round and start writing new records,” Bielsa said.
The other two teams in Group H, Spain and Switzerland, played later Wednesday in Durban, completing the first set of opening-round matches.
Honduras-Chile was the first World Cup game in Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium, which borders the world-renowned Kruger National Park. The official attendance was 32,664; capacity is 43,000.