NELSPRUIT, June 16 – Chile secured a first World Cup win in 48 years by edging Honduras 1-0 on Wednesday through a late first-half goal from striker Jean Beausejour.The Group H success ended a 13-game winless run spanning four tournaments for the Chilean ‘Reds’ since defeating Yugoslavia on June 16 1962 to finish third as hosts.
Switzerland are the next opponents for a team coached by Marcel Bielsa, who is desperate to make the second round from a pool including title favourites Spain after failing to do so with his native Argentina eight years ago.
The South Americans began brightly as they sought a fourth victory in six clashes with the Hondurans and midfielder Matias Fernandez went close off a third-minute free kick.
An Argentina-born star who plays for Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon, he comfortably cleared the Honduran wall with a free kick and the ball landed on the roof of the net after dipping just too late.
Fellow Chilean midfielder Carlos Carmona was cautioned 60 seconds later by Eddy Maillet, the first referee from the Indian Ocean island of Seychelles to handle a World Cup fixture.
Chile were on top territorially and it took Honduras 18 minutes to create an opening close to goal only for 101-cap Carlos Pavon to disappoint with a weak shot that trickled wide.
Midway through the opening half Fernandez became the second Chilean to be cautioned in a lively game which attracted a large, South African public holiday crowd to the north-east city near the Kruger National Park.
The best known Honduran footballer, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Wilson Palacios, was next to be shown a yellow card as Maillet ran out of patience following constant offences.
Persistent Chile pressure finally paid off when slick passing outside the penalty area created space for Mauricio Isla on the right flank and his low cross was turned in by Mexico-based Beausejour.
‘Red-hot Chile Peppers’ read a poster in a crowd comprising locals and plenty of Chileans and Hondurans, and it was appropriate given the superiority of the South Americans who could have been several goals ahead by half-time.
Honduras pushed Edgar Alvarez forward for the second half but the early exchanges followed a similar pattern to the first 45 minutes with Chile exerting far more pressure as they sought the cushion of a two-goal advantage.
Chile defender Waldo Ponce came forward for a free kick midway through the half and should have doubled the lead only for veteran Valladares to parry away a diving point-blank header.
Midfielder Jorge Valdivia had the ball into the net 15 minutes from full-time, but was correctly flagged offside as the ‘killer’ second goal continued to elude Chile.
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