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Chile sweat over Medel

2014-06-28 09:30
Gary Medel (AFP)

Belo Horizonte - Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli is sweating over the fitness of defender Gary Medel for Saturday's World Cup last-16 clash with Brazil in Belo Horizonte.

"If the game were today he would not play. It is a real concern," said Sampaoli of the 26-year-old Cardiff City player who rarely misses a game for his country.

"Because of his character there is always hope as he usually recovers quicker than other players.

"He suffered a muscle strain yesterday and we will see how it evolves."

If Medel does miss out, Sampaoli could be tempted to ditch the three-man defence that he used in the 2-0 win against Spain on June 18 and the defeat by the same scoreline to the Netherlands on Monday, and revert to four at the back.

However, influential attacking midfielder Arturo Vidal will return after sitting out Chile's last group game to rest a troublesome knee and avoid collecting a second yellow card that would have led to a suspension.

"Arturo is ready to play," said Sampaoli.

"Towards the end of the season with Juventus, he played in the Europa League when he was only 30 percent fit.

"Today he is still nowhere near 100 percent but we all agree that he has to play."

Having lost all three previous meetings with Brazil at the World Cup, including in the last 16 in 1998 and in 2010, Chile know that history is not on their side.

Nevertheless, Sampaoli, who grew up watching his native Argentina take on Brazil in the greatest fixture in South American football, is excited at the thought of eliminating the host nation.

"Chile always seem to end up playing Brazil at this stage, but it is no coincidence that they come out on top. They have been world champions five times," said Sampaoli.

"It is not easy for anyone to beat Brazil but we have a chance to change history.

"A game against Brazil was always a 'clasico' for me because I grew up in Argentina, although now I feel more connected to the Chilean people who have been awaiting this opportunity for a long time.

"I like these kind of games. I think the whole squad is in good shape and we are capable of producing a good performance."

Sampaoli is expecting a closely-fought contest but insisted that his side would not implement any special plans to combat the threat of Neymar, who has been Brazil's standout player so far at this World Cup, scoring four goals.

"The match will be more about exploiting space than controlling possession. It will be different to what we are used to. This Brazil team are more direct to sides of the past. We will need to be extremely careful when we lose the ball.

"We will need to make sure we are close to Neymar whenever he has the ball but it will be a collective effort to neutralise him rather than putting one man on him.

Read more on: chile swc 2014 soccer

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