Sampaoli lauds red-hot Chile
Jorge Sampaoli (AFP)
Rio de Janeiro - Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli lauded his side after they dumped reigning champions Spain out of the Soccer World Cup on Wednesday to motor into the last 16 on the back of a deserved 2-0 triumph in Rio.
As it happened: Spain v Chile
Spain came in on the ropes after suffering a 5-1 battering by the Netherlands and Chile delivered the knockout punch in some style to ensure they and the Dutch will compete in the next phase.
"I am proud of the way Chile put out world champions," said Sampaoli. "It was a great win over great rivals.
"Against the Dutch we must now make a similar effort and hit these heights again - we want to finish first in the group," added the Argentinian-born coach, who knows his side are likely to clash with hosts Brazil in the next round should they come second and the Brazilians top their opening pool.
"I don't know if this is our best ever victory, as for me the best victory is always the next one. But I think it's unlikely I shall ever forget this win," he told reporters as he savored a success adding to an opening 3-1 in over Australia.
"We showed great courage with the way we played and so you can say we are the rebels of this event," said the 54-year-old.
Sampaoli, who took the reins of the Chileans in 2012, said it was too early to say if his charges can go all the way at the finals.
"I am not thinking about Chile as world champions. There are many good teams here and we shall see."
But he added that the dedication the players have shown to the cause augured well.
Although Eduardo Vargas was voted man of the match, Sampaoli praised midfielder Arturo Vidal for his display having just returned from a knee surgery he underwent last month.
"Vidal had some problems with his leg these past days and gave a very intensive performance and that's difficult to do when you are constantly in pain."
Vargas struck on 20 minutes and Charles Aranguiz added the coup de grace for the Chileans as Spain's stars went home with their tails between their legs.
Sampaoli had guided his side through a strong second half of the Latin American qualifying campaign after replacing Claudio Borghi at the end of 2012.
But he insisted that here, his team have looked better than ever.
"Today, we played with a system and an idea. The players believe in the idea and they defend it."
The Chilean showing was a far cry from their last World Cup in Brazil, where they started off with a pair of 2-0 defeats - also at the Maracana - to England and Spain themselves as they crashed out in the first phase, mustering only a consolation win over the United States.
The 1950 loss to Spain drew a crowd of just 16 000 - almost five times less than that which saw the Chileans serve up belated revenge.
Vargas, who had a spell with Gremio in the Brazilian league last year from Napoli, said Chile are fired up to continue their run.
"We're a great team having a great time. We must keep on in the same vein and not let up," the 24-year-old said.