Copa America champions Chile take on Euro champions Portugal in Confederations Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
Both teams are unbeaten with Portugal topping Group A on goal difference. Chile finished second in Group B after draws against table toppers Germany and Australia.
Juan Antonio Pizzi's men will face their toughest test so far in Russia against Portugal, a team the South Americans have not been able to conquer in three attempts.
As we gear up for what promises to be a thrilling clash, let’s take a closer look at three players from each team who could play a key role in the semi-final.
You knew this was coming, of course. The Real Madrid forward is in rich form despite a potential tax storm brewing in Spain.
Having scored 16 goals in his last 10 games (for Real Madrid and Portugal), he has been his usual impressive self in Russia, claiming man-of-the-match awards in all three group games, netting two goals and providing an assist.
His penalty conversion in Portugal’s crushing 4-0 win over New Zealand was his 75th international goal.
After helping steer Portugal to the Euro 2016 title in Paris, the 32-year-old will be eagerly seeking to win a second international title for his country.
When you have a star like Cristiano Ronaldo in the team, it seems like everyone else is reduced to a mere supporting role.
Yet, one can’t take away the fact that Andre Silva has been one of the linchpins for Fernando Santos's side in this tournament.
— Liam Hungate (@liamhungate) June 24, 2017
Though the 21-year-old has only scored the one goal so far and against New Zealand, it was a remarkable one. The youngster ran more than 30 yards while taking on two defenders with another chasing, and scored from an awkward angle.
One of Portugal’s rising stars, he’ll ably back up the Portuguese attack against a Chilean defense that has conceded only two goals so far in Confederations Cup 2017. Before joining AC Milan and impressing legions of Italian fans, he’ll surely want to inspire a Portuguese victory in Wednesday’s semi-final.
With defender Pepe suspended, the onus will lie on Bruno Alves to thwart Chile’s attack. At 35, he’s a veteran having represented Portugal for 10 years and will be eager to ensure he makes each game count.
He was particularly potent against hosts Russia where he ensured Portugal did not concede a goal after Ronaldo’s goal saw them to a 1-0 victory.
If Chile must cause an upset on Wednesday, it will largely depend on how effectively Alexis Sanchez can penetrate the Portuguese defence. Chile have failed to excite this tournament and all eyes will be on Sanchez to improve upon their performances against Germany and Australia.
His goal against Germany was his 31st this season and he overtook Marcelo Salas to become Chile’s all-time top goal scorer. Portugal’s defense is yet to be tested this tournament and the Arsenal forward will make sure Alves and the center-back are on their toes throughout the clash.
The winner of Chile-Portugal clash will be decided in the midfield. Therefore, Arturo Vidal will be Chile’s go-to player to create goal scoring chances.
The Bayern Munich midfielder was at his fluent best during the opening match against Cameroon and was deservedly awarded the Man of the Match. It’ll be up to him to galvanize La Roja after two ordinary games. He is not only key to Chile’s chances of foiling Ronaldo and Co but in creating adequate opportunities with free kicks and corners.
The reason Chile have conceded only two goals so far this tournament is due to their accomplished defence. This is best exemplified by the versatility of Mauricio Isla. A mainstay at centre back throughout the tournament, he has been a bit of an unsung hero for Chile.
He will be pivotal in retrieving the ball from the Portuguese attack and improving Chile’s possession to ensure a La Roja victory.
With inputs from AFP
Published Date: Jun 28, 2017 05:16 pm | Updated Date: Jun 28, 2017 05:16 pm