Chile seek to dodge Swiss slip-up

By Martin Petty

PORT ELIZABETH (Reuters) - The thought of Chile against Switzerland as a top-of-the-table clash in the same group as World Cup favorites Spain would have been inconceivable only a few days ago.

But both teams are in the unlikely position of joint Group H leaders after the Swiss stunned the Spaniards 1-0 and Chile beat Honduras by the same scoreline to seal their first win at a World Cup in 48 years.

Although far from a mouth-watering matchup, Monday's encounter has taken on added significance that might just be enough to wake sleepy Port Elizabeth from its World Cup snooze.

The defeats for Spain and Honduras, who meet later Monday in Johannesburg, means a win for either Switzerland or Chile would give them one foot in the next round. The winning side may be able to advance with a defeat in their final game.

Chile's last win in the finals until their 1-0 win over Honduras had come in the 3rd/4th place playoff as hosts in 1962. They had since qualified for the World Cup four times but failed to win any group matches.

Chile's players will try to break down a tight Swiss defense and a packed midfield and avoid falling into the same trap as Spain, who dominated their match but lost out to a goal against the run of play.


"We definitely have to be careful because with very little possession the Swiss still managed to beat Spain," defender Gary Medel said.

"We know that we have to be much more mobile than the Spanish, to create some space, to open up their defense, which looks very closed."

Midfielder Ismael Fuentes added: "They were waiting for a mistake from Spain and they scored. We know they're a very physical team, and we've been training for that."

Chile's leading striker Humberto Suazo is likely to return from a hamstring injury to lead a three-man attack. Suazo has played only 45 minutes of competitive soccer since late April and he would likely replace playmaker Jorge Valdivia.

Doubts remain over whether Valdivia is fit to play after he picked up a minor injury against Honduras. Team officials expect him to recover, although Valdivia's wife said otherwise and told Chilean television he would likely miss Monday's game.

Switzerland's coach Ottmar Hitzfeld believes his team are the underdogs against Chile, a match he said would be mentally tougher than their win over Spain.

Striker Alex Frei and midfielder Valon Behrami, who missed the first game due to injuries, have resumed training and were both fully fit, although it was not certain top striker Frei would start in the game," he said.

(Additional reporting by Gideon Long in Nelspruit and Bate Felix in Vanderbijlpark; Editing by Michael Holden)