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Brazil set for acid test vs Chile All-South American last-16 showdown

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, June 27, (AFP): Brazil know that their outstanding past record against Chile will count for nothing when the sides meet in an all-South American World Cup last-16 tie at the Mineirao in Belo Horizonte on Saturday afternoon. The tournament hosts have lost just eight of 68 previous meetings with Chile, and have emerged triumphant in all three past encounters in the World Cup, scoring 11 goals in the process. That run includes a comfortable 3-0 win against Marcelo Bielsa’s Chile side at the same stage of the 2010 finals in South Africa, but midfielder Willian insists that Brazilian fans should not automatically expect a repeat performance.

“Football nowadays has changed so much. Of course Brazil have beaten Chile a few times before, which is good. But we must not think about this. Every game has its own story. I am sure that Chile will be motivated and confident too,” said the Chelsea player. Brazil have yet to live up to the high expectations surrounding them at these finals despite collecting seven points from a possible nine in the group stage. In contrast, Chile have impressed, notably in sending the holders Spain packing from the competition with a 2-0 win at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. Only a 2-0 defeat to the Netherlands in their final Group B match on Monday condemned them to second place and another meeting with Brazil.

However, Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has admitted that he would have chosen different opponents for his side than Chile, who drew 2-2 at the Mineirao in a friendly in April last year and narrowly lost 2-1 when the teams clashed in Canada last November. Striker Fred, who scored his first goal of the tournament in Brazil’s 4-1 win against Cameroon on Monday, believes it will be an open encounter against a Chile side who operate with a three-man defence and look to the class of Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal going forward. “Chile are tactically very strong and play with great commitment. And going forward they have players who can make the difference,” said the 30-year-old. “We have seen some of their games. The way the tournament has been I think they will look to attack and Brazil will do the same.” Chile have not reached the quarter-finals since they hosted the tournament in 1962, when they were eventually eliminated in the last four by Brazil.

However, the current side, coached by Argentine Jorge Sampaoli, are confident that they can capitalise on the enormous weight of pressure on Brazil and upset the odds. “If I thought we were going to lose, I would go back to my room, collect my things and go home,” said Sanchez, who will come up against his Barcelona club colleagues Daniel Alves and Neymar. “We have respect for them, but I think we are going to beat them. We came to this World Cup to make history. We beat the world champions, and although we had a slip-up against Holland, we are going out to try and win the Cup. “These games are to be enjoyed. We are confident and at the same time we know what we have to do to beat a team containing some of the best players in the world.”

Sampaoli was left fuming on Thursday when a helicopter from Brazilian television station O Globo hovered over his squad’s training session in the Belo Horizonte suburbs in an apparent attempt to glean clues as to the possible Chile line-up. Defender Gary Medel picked up an ankle knock in training, but if he recovers, Chile should be at full strength, with Vidal set to feature after being rested for the Netherlands defeat. Brazil are monitoring a slight back injury suffered by centre-back David Luiz in training, while Fernandinho could come into the midfield at the expense of Paulinho after impressing as a substitute against Cameroon. The winners will go through to another all-South American tie in the quarter-finals, against either Colombia or Uruguay in Fortaleza.

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