Iniesta Rallies Spain For Chile Combat

Andres-Iniesta-Spain midfielder Andres Iniesta says that the defending champions must ready themselves for a fight when they tackle Chile in Wednesday’s make-or-break World Cup encounter in Rio de Janeiro.

Spain’s 5-1 drubbing by the Netherlands has left them in a vulnerable position in Group B and they will be eliminated if they lose to Chile and the Dutch avoid defeat against Australia.

Only three defending champions have previously fallen at the first hurdle — Brazil in 1966, France in 2002, and Italy in 2010 — and Iniesta knows that Spain face a challenge if they are to avoid inflating that statistic.

“Chile are a difficult team because we’ll have to defend and we’ll have to fight one against one,” said the Barcelona midfielder, scorer of the decisive extra-time goal against Holland in the 2010 final.

“We just hope those who play tomorrow (Wednesday) will be able to escape from their markers so we can find a way to win.

“We must be able to make the right passes, and look for those in space, so we can score goals.

“Sometimes we’ll have to be faster, other times we’ll have to control the ball, but we’ll just play it as a final, because only in that way will we be able to win against Chile.

“Our only goal right now is winning so we can go to the next phase. But we trust ourselves and we’re well equipped for that.”

Chile won 3-1 against Australia in their first game and have an aggressive, possession-based style reminiscent of Spain in their pomp.

Coach Jorge Sampaoli has admitted that Spain’s capitulation to the Dutch will influence his side’s approach to the game at the Maracana, but he is wary of writing off a team who are chasing a fourth consecutive major tournament victory.

“We had already developed a system before the World Cup and we already knew before the World Cup how we’d play against Spain,” said the Argentine, whose side have lost only twice in their last 16 games.

“Obviously after watching Spain against Holland, we’ve considered minor changes, but Spain didn’t deserve such a defeat.

“They were much better in the first half, but many things went against them that made them lose the way they lost.

“There’s nothing I can tell you right now, but we’ll try to use a system that allows us to hurt a team that needs to win to stay in the championship.

“Don’t forget they lost against Switzerland in their opening game at the last World Cup, but still became champions.”

Sampaoli will wait until the day of the game before deciding whether to hand a start to Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal, who is recovering from knee surgery and managed only 60 minutes against Australia.

There is also a possibility that Sampaoli will bring Osasuna midfielder Francisco Silva into his team and switch to a three-man defence.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has strongly hinted that he will make changes to his starting XI, with Pedro Rodriguez, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata and Fernando Torres all in contention to come into the team.

The submission of the team-sheets will also reveal whether or not he has kept faith with captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who felt obliged to issue an apology after a catastrophic display against Holland.

After a one-sided 3-0 loss to Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup final on their last visit to the Maracana, elimination for Spain would confirm the end of their six-year reign as the sport’s dominant force.

Torres, however, says that Spain are “only thinking about winning”, while Del Bosque pointed out: “We still have our destiny in our hands.”

© Sapa – AFP

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