“Hi! My friend”, said Waleska Fuchslocher, the perennially breezy team media officer of Chile, to a volunteer as she led us to a spot, to hold an impromptu interaction. It is true that Chile was that first team to hit the city but in these few days their cordial behaviour and reaching out to our embrace our culture (Fuchscholer sports an elaborate mehendi tattoo on both of her hands) has brought us endearing close to us, the media contingent.
Sadly, come today we might be about to lose our close ‘friend’. Having lost 0-4, to one of the contenders of this edition of the world cup, England, and having seen them splatter all over the place in that match, it is highly unlikely they will stick around for long. And they have a regular man down, to further pile on their woes.
Julio Borquez, Chile’s first choice goalkeeper who was adjudged the best keeper in the South American championships, will be out of commission, at least, for the next match. He was expelled from the pitch due to his unfair challenge on Rhian Brewster on 78th minute providing an opportunity for Angelo Gomes to bend the ball into the right-hand corner from the consequently awarded set piece.
A Chilean reporter, who travels all over the world to report wherever his national team plays, said with an authoritative emphasis that Borquez will be replaced by Rodrigo Cancino. Though Branco Provoste, the midfielder who replaced Borquez, speaking to us after the end of today’s practice session, about possible replacement in this crucial match, maintained that, “Right now it is not fixed but all the other goalkeepers are really good”. As for the rest of the team, Branco said, “We will have the same team that played against England. I know that it is going to be a very difficult match but we will be strong”.
On the other hand, the Iraqi coach team, Qahtan Al-Rubaye Jatir, seems to have full faith in is his tactical ploy, “We played a highly tactical match against Mexico. We have many strategies in place. We have to choose the best among them for Chile.” We caught some concern about his lads in his voice when he mentioned that ‘The two days we got to rest – we played a game against Mexico just two days back – is not good enough for the players to recover because they are kids right now”
Bassam Shakir, who plies his trade in the mid-field, added, “We did a good job against Mexico but now we have to forget that match and concentrate more on the Chile match”. On his thoughts about the opponents that they are going to encounter in today’s match he said, “Chile is a good team; just because they lost 0-4 to England doesn’t mean that they are not good. We will do our best to collect the three points because it will then put us in a good situation before the next game we have against England.”
We saw an innovative practice module during the Chile session. The boys were being lobed the ball and they were trying head into a white basket upheld by the support staff. Fuchslocher later said, This exercise is not for training purposes but it is a game. This is only for fun”.
It was also noticed that they were wearing a black band on their left arm. Fuchslocher explained that they were paying respect to Dr. Fernando Gonzalez Foretic, one of the founders of a sports medical institution, Clinica Meds that works closely with the Chilean team who suffered an air-crash while co-piloting a 2-seater, Piper J-3 plane over Rio del Plata to gather for a meal a day after the annual Uruguay-versus-Chile Friendship Cup rugby match which co-incidentally marks the anniversary of the 1972 Andes flight disaster.
As for today’s match Chile needs to better their 36% possession and zero attempts at goal record they had against England. In that match they were not able to back-up their narrow play with their feeble talent. Not only the back line was losing their position, their line of retreat was also faulty. Iraq on the other hand lacked a support line to resolve their penetration led by Mohammed Dawood, who seems to be a borderline case to be in star-list as he suffered an injury in the Mexico match as did Muntadheer Mohammed. Dawood who was named as the best player in the last U-16 AFC having also scored six goals and also listed in the Guardian’s Top 30 U-17 players to watch out for is the fresh revelation of this tournament. If he plays it will be interesting to watch his buccaneering solos tearing down the feeble Chilean line.
Chile Vs Iraq game starts at 8 pm.