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Confederations Cup Semifinal Preview: Chile vs. Portugal

Portugal Confederations Cup
Portugal's head coach Fernando Santos walks during a training session in Kazan, Russia, on June 27, 2017 on the eve of the Russia 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup football semi-final match Portugal vs Chile. / AFP PHOTO / FRANCK FIFE (Photo credit should read FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)

Let’s face it, no one expected Portugal to win Euro 2016 and yet they did – they overcame France in France. Les Bleus were beaten by a formidable side in Portugal, a side that is quite good in their low-blocking phases and a team that is very adept at transitional phases, too. Those two tactical traits make them a very complicated and awkward team to play against.

Furthermore, this Portugal stat is interesting: Cristiano Ronaldo has not lost a competitive match with Portugal since the 2014 World Cup and is looking to reach another final on Wednesday when his side faces off against Chile.

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The Russian city of Kazan will be the place where these South American and European heavyweights collide in the 2017 Confederations Cup semi-final. Chile are back-to-back Copa America champions and are currently enjoying a golden generation in which their high-press is peaking in terms of tactical cohesion.

Below, you can see a rough graphic of the high-press Chile used against Germany last week:

Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side only won one group game; a win over Cameroon, but they remain undefeated and held Germany to a draw. Their most recent match was the last of the group stage and finished as a 1-1 draw against Australia with La Roja finishing second in Group B.

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On the other hand, Fernando Santos’ squad secured the top of Group A by smashing New Zealand 4-0. Yes, New Zealand is undoubtedly the worst team competing in the Confederations Cup, but earlier in the tournament, Portugal looked convincing against Mexico.

Portugal took the lead twice against Mexico, often showing signs of their heralded defensive/transitional play, and it looked as if they were going to win until Hector Moreno equalized in stoppage time for Mexico.

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However, coming into this semi-final battle with Chile, Portugal are not fully fit. They are likely to be without left-back Raphael Guerreiro due to bruising and Pepe will be suspended for picking up two yellow cards, but there is some good news. Former Monaco star Bernardo Silva is likely to be fit to play despite minor issues being reported earlier in the week:

The South Americans, however, are fully fit. There was a slight scare with defender Gary Medel when he had to be subbed off against Germany last week due to muscle complications and he sat out the 1-1 draw against Australia, but he is ready to face Portugal.

Potential Chile starting XI: Bravo; Isla, Medel, Jara, Mena; Marcelo Diaz; Aranguiz, Hernandez; Vidal; Vargas, Alexis.

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Potential Portugal starting XI: Patricio; Cedric, Alves, Fonte, Eliseu; Bernardo Silva, William, Moutinho, Quaresma; Andre Silva, Ronaldo.

Prediction:

Chile are excellent at high-pressing, they made Germany crumble a bit in their group stage match when the defending world champs tried to play out the back and even scored a goal in the pressing process. But Portugal may just go for long balls.

If you learned anything from Jose Mourinho’s masterclass win over Ajax in the Europa League final, it is that long balls can kill a high-press and counter-press. If you don’t pass from defense to the midfield, what can the opposition press?

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Well, that is how Portugal may approach this match. They could try and neutralize Chile’s best playmaker – their high-press.

Personally, Chile has talent, but they don’t have too many out and out world beaters. So, if their high-press becomes negated, what is their plan B? That is something to think about prior to watching.

Anyway, I predict a narrow 2-1 win for Portugal.

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