Earlier today, while discussing who would recap which game, I whined that Chile-Australia was not even close to a consolation prize for missing the day's heavyweight battle between Spain and the Netherlands. Because every prediction I seem to make goes horribly (in this case wonderfully) awry, the Cuiaba contest became an engrossing tug-of-war between the two non-European super powers in Group B.
With Spain going down easier than a pitcher of sangria on a warm summer afternoon, Chile was given a huge opportunity to establish itself as a leading contender in a highly-competitive group. Indeed, Jorge Sampaoli's crew looked set to capitalize on this chance by storming out of the gates and grabbing a deserved 2-0 lead just 14 minutes in. Energetic pressing and concise interplay in Australia's end saw both Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia kick the can in a 120-second stretch.
At this point, it seemed the game could take a turn for the savage but the Kangeroos found their footing and made it a contest. Tim Cahill responded in classic Tim Cahill fashion in the 35th minute and Mark Bresciano offered threatening moments of his own.
The Aussies came out firing to start the second half but a correctly disallowed Cahill header (what else?), a non-penalty on another Cahill header (what else?), and a magnificent save by Claudio Bravo stopped them from ever evening the score. Eduardo Vargas had a "bumbler" cleared off the line by Andy Wilkinson before Jean Beausejour put the game to rest with Chile's third deep in stoppage time.
It threatened to be a blowout, but credit to Australia for putting up a genuine fight. They occasionally ran out of ideas in the build up, but Cahill did Cahillian things and that gave them a puncher's chance. As for the Chileans, there's as much to be happy about as there is to fret. The South Americans attack looked downright rapacious at times (particularly the opening stretch), yet allowing Australia to almost even the score means there is work to be done before we can pencil them in for the second round.
NSC's Man of the Match: Tim Cahill. A player from the losing team? You know it. Without Cahill Australia wouldn't have traded a single punch.
Spain's loss and Chile's win makes this group very, veryyy interestinggg over the next few weeks. It's not the Group of Death, but it may very well be the Death of a Dynasty.