Chile’s indestructible team spirit and unyielding attitude have laid the foundations for a hugely successful run that will see them contest a third straight international final at the Confederations Cup.
Claudio Bravo proved Chile’s hero on Wednesday as the Manchester City goalkeeper saved all three penalties to eliminate Portugal in a semi-final shootout following a 0-0 draw after extra time in Kazan.
“That was unbelievably stressful,” admitted the 34-year-old Bravo, as Chile won 3-0 on penalties to set up a showdown on Sunday with Germany or Mexico. “This team never gives up, which means we can achieve great things like this.”
While Bravo showed nerves of steel, his team-mates transformed iron will into cool composure as Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz and Alexis Sanchez calmly converted their spot-kicks.
With the European champions vanquished, Chile are eager for a potential rematch with world champions Germany as they attempt to add the Confederations Cup trophy to their 2015 and 2016 Copa America titles in Saint Petersburg.
“That was a crazy end, the first penalty is always the most important,” said Vidal, who buried Chile’s opening spot-kick just inside the post. “We fought like crazy and now we hope we can face Germany in the final and also win.”
Man City's Bravo saves all 3 Portugal penalties. ✔️— Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) June 29, 2017
Bayern's Vidal converts his. ✔️
Chile reach the Confederations Cup final. 👏 pic.twitter.com/ITfuaB9nct
Chile qualified for Russia as South American champions, ahead of powerhouses Argentina and Brazil — winners of the Confederations Cup in 1997, 2005, 2009 and 2013.
Chile ended a 99-year wait for a maiden Copa America title in 2015, defeating Argentina on penalties, before retaining their crown a year later in a special centenary edition.
The rise of Chile’s La Roja has been consistent, and they were unlucky to lose out to 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil on penalties in the last 16 after beating defending champions Spain 2-0 in the group stage.
They shook off that heartbreak to lift the Copa America on home soil in 2015, with Lionel Messi again reduced to tears and briefly announcing his international retirement as Chile downed Argentina following another shootout in 2016, this time in the US.
Forward Eduardo Vargas was the 2016 Copa America’s top scorer with six goals, while Alexis Sanchez was voted best player and Bravo was nominated as best goalkeeper.
The back-to-back titles were achieved with roughly the same squad, ensuring it is a group that can draw on the invaluable experience of achieving success on the big stage.
City’s Bravo and Arsenal striker Sanchez play regularly in England’s Premier League, while Vidal has lifted the Bundesliga trophy twice in as many seasons since moving to Bayern Munich.
After spells at Bayer Leverkusen and Juventus, Vidal replaced Bastian Schweinsteiger at Bayern and has developed into one of the world’s best midfielders, crucially calming his sometimes volatile temper in Bavaria.
Vidal chased Ronaldo around the pitch in Kazan, regularly robbing the Real Madrid superstar of possession and subduing Portugal’s leading threat.
The Chileans have earned fans in high places, with Germany coach Joachim Loew admitting he was fascinated by Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team before last Thursday’s 1-1 group stage draw.
“They are flexible like maybe no other side, very unpredictable,” said Loew. “Almost every player is capable of scoring and wants to score goals. “They are so flexible that, from time to time, you cannot tell which player is playing which position.”
Chile beat Portugal 3-0 in a penalty shoot-out in Wednesday’s Confederations Cup semi-finals, after the match finished goalless after extra-time, to book their place in Sunday’s final in Saint Petersburg.
Cristiano Ronaldo was criticised on social media for not taking one of the first penalties with the skipper eventually denied an opportunity thanks to Claudio Bravo’s brilliance.
The Manchester City goalkeeper was Chile’s hero saving all three penalties from Portugal’s Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho and Nani, while Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz and Alexis Sanchez nailed their spot-kicks for the South Americans.
Chile will now face either Germany or Mexico in Sunday’s final.
The general consensus is that Ronaldo should be taking the first penalty instead of seeking the decisive kick seeing as he is the team’s first choice from 12 yards out.
Ronaldo: "You can't miss a crucial penalty, if you don't take one." pic.twitter.com/2zLtsk0YJk— Troll Football (@TrollFootball) June 28, 2017
When Ronaldo gets told he's taking the first penalty pic.twitter.com/edXdNfqynW— King Kenny Stand (@KingKennyStand) June 28, 2017
Last year Ronaldo took the first penalty and he motivated Moutinho!! A leader pic.twitter.com/0KCTbUcXeR— Portugal the scammer (@AfricanKhaIeesi) June 28, 2017
Ronaldo waiting for the fifth penalty like.. pic.twitter.com/xPRHp4dfab— Leo Messi (@messi10stats) June 28, 2017
Ronaldo wanted to shine by kicking the last penalty kick, act like he won the match for his team, but Claudio Bravo had other Plans #PORvCHI— Thakhani_R © (@Ralufhe_TP) June 28, 2017
I don't care if Ronaldo "usually" takes the fifth penalty. He's the captain (and the usual penalty taker) for Portugal. You go first.— Jonas Giæver (@CheGiaevara) June 28, 2017
Ronaldo wanted to take the last penalty to be the hero 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/9cPAo1yVfq— Leo Messi (@messi10stats) June 28, 2017
So Ronaldo's "I'll be the hero" penalty shoot out tactic backfires. #ConfedCup— John Bennett (@JohnBennettBBC) June 28, 2017
Cristiano Ronaldo hiding away when his team needs him the most, should've taken the first penalty, what a coward. Awful leader.— TMW² OD7 (@TheMessiWay10) June 28, 2017
Hahahah ROnaldo scared of the first penalty.— Leo Messi (@messi10stats) June 28, 2017
Congratulations Bravo and Alexis
England Under-21s suffered more penalty semi-final heartbreak against Germany after Nathan Redmond’s miss sent them out of Euro 2017.
Julian Pollersbeck saved the Southampton winger’s spot kick as Germany won 4-3 on penalties following a 2-2 draw after extra time.
It was hard on the Young Lions who battled hard but it is Germany who will face Spain or Italy in Friday’s final in Krakow.
Alfie Mawson said England were left “gutted” by their semi-final defeat.
Swansea defender Mawson told Sky Sports after the game: “There are a lot of down heads in there. A lot of people are genuinely gutted, which I think shows what this meant to us.
“It’s one of those things you’ve got to man up and deal with. I think tonight they were the better team and I think we did brilliantly well to hang in there.
“They should have had a few more goals but credit to us, we kept going and penalty shoot-outs are pot luck. But fair play to them, let’s see how they get on in the final.”
Jordan Pickford : 7
Mason Holgate : 6
Calum Chambers : 8
Alfie Mawson : 7
Ben Chilwell : 6
Nathaniel Chalobah: 7
Will Hughes : 8
James Ward-Prowse : 7
Lewis Baker : 7
Demarai Gray: 8
Tammy Abraham : 8
Jacob Murphy (for Chalobah): 7
Nathan Redmond (for Gray): 6
John Swift (for Hughes): 6
Dominic Iorfa (for Holgate): 6
Julian Pollersbeck: 6
Jeremy Toljan : 8
Marc-Oliver Kempf : 7
Gideon Jung : 7
Yannick Gerhardt : 6
Janik Haberer : 6
Max Philipp : 7
Max Meyer : 7
Max Arnold : 7
Serge Gnabry: 7
David Selke : 7
Felix Platte (for Selke): 6
Thilo Kehrer (for Jung): 6
Nadiem Amiri (for Gnabry): 7
Dominik Kohr (for Haberer) 6
Former England striker Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker): England’s lads gave their all but the better team won.
Nathan Redmond’s England Under-21 career ended with a semi-final penalty shoot-out miss.
Julian Pollersbeck dived to his right to stop the Southampton man’s spot kick and send England out 4-3 on penalties.
It was cruel on England who had battled hard even if Germany were the better side over all – bar a lightning first 20 minutes from the Young Lions.
England were left to rue their misses as Germany boss Stefan Kuntz broke their hearts again having been part of the senior side which beat the Three Lions on penalties at Euro 96.
Many of the group will be too old for Euro 2019 and boss Aidy Boothroyd will have a new crop of youngsters to work with.
Redmond, captain James Ward-Prowse, Alfie Mawson and Jordan Pickford all age out now with new faces needing to step into their shoes.
It will be difficult to get over the penalty defeat immediately but England are stronger than they were in 2015, when they exited at the group stages, and will recover.
Watford look to have bagged a bargain after paying Derby £8million for the midfielder, who completed a switch at the weekend.
Hughes may not have started the tournament but cemented himself in the side against Germany after a fine showing against Poland last week.
On Tuesday he was at the centre of England’s good work and skilfully set up Tammy Abraham’s goal which, briefly, looked to have put England in the final.
He did not shirk his defensive responsibilities, providing an extra screen for the back four when Germany threatened to win in normal time.
Provided by Press Association