PORT ELIZABETH, June 21 – When Marcel Bielsa took charge of Chile the first game under his watch was a friendly against Switzerland in Vienna.In a quirk of fate 33 months later Argentinian Bielsa’s adopted country once again cross paths with Switzerland, but this time in South Africa the stakes are higher.
Monday’s World Cup tie pits two countries who have kicked off their 2010 campaigns in the best possible fashion, Chile beating Honduras and the Swiss toppling Spain.
With a last 16 ticket for both teams dangling tantalisingly in front of them Bielsa, a noted tactician, has spent large chunks of his time since the opening win studying how to get the better of Ottmar Hitzfeld’s giantkillers.
He told a press conference at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium on Sunday: "The Swiss had perfect command of the ball against Spain who had problems attacking as spaces were being reduced.
"They had two defensive lines close to each other, but of course tomorrow’s match may not be a replica, we’ll have to see."
Chile secured a first World Cup win in 48 years by edging Honduras 1-0 last 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 in 1962 to finish third as hosts.
Star striker Humberto Suazo missed Wednesday’s game with injury but Bielsa had encouraging news on the fiery forward.
"Humberto is in better physical shape today, but we can’t ignore that he only played 45 minutes in a World Cup warm-up recently against Israel."
Bielsa is intent on guiding Chile into the last 16 as he failed to accomplish that with his native Argentina in 2004.
Hitzfeld has claimed that Chile are favourites and represent a more dangerous threat than even Euro 2008 champions Spain.
Bielsa denied this, saying: "In this World Cup especially there are no favourites, even less so than at other finals."