Bravo, Chile’s hero

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

KAZAN. — 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 soc­cer final at the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup.

Clau­dio Bravo proved Chile’s hero on Wed­nes­day night as the Manch­ester City goal­keeper saved all three penal­ties to elim­i­nate Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s Por­tu­gal in a semi-final shoot-out fol­low­ing a 0-0 draw af­ter ex­tra­time in Kazan.

“That was un­be­liev­ably stress­ful,” ad­mit­ted the 34-yearold 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 spot­kicks.

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.”

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. — AFP.

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