KAZAN, June 27: UEFA Euro 2016 winners Portugal take on Copa America champions Chile in the first semifinal of the Confederations Cup on Wednesday.
It will be the first ever competitive fixture between the two teams as the two countries have met on two previous occasions, but the two matches were friendly games.
Portugal have been one of the most dominant teams at this summer�s competition. The side started the tournament with a 2-2 draw against Mexico and then defeated Russia 1-0 on matchday 2 before dismantling New Zealand 4-0 in their final group match. As a result, Portugal finished the group in first place on seven points ahead of Mexico thanks to the better goal difference.
On the other hand, known as one of the hardest-working squads in the world, Chile is starting to feel the wear and tear of its all-out style in the Confederations Cup.
And things won�t get any easier for the South American champions when they face Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in the semifinals.
Chile secured their semifinal berth with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Australia on Sunday, and the team will have only two days of rest before facing Portugal in Kazan. The European champions played their last group stage match on Saturday, in which Cristiano Ronaldo was substituted with more than 20 minutes left.
�We�re obviously at a disadvantage,� Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said. �Having an extra day of rest at this stage of the tournament, and after the great effort that we�ve been making, favours the opponent.�
Pizzi rested some starters against Australia, but Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez and Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal played the full 90 minutes. Several times during the match, Sanchez gasped for air and rested his hands on his knees after a run, not showing his usual burst of speed.
Chile plays a very aggressive style, with high pressing and relentless attack. It helped the team win back-to-back Copa America titles in 2015 and 2016, but it also exposes its defence to counterattacks, something Ronaldo and strike partner Andre Silva will be ready to pounce on.
�Our style of play is very physically taxing, the players have to make a great effort,� Pizzi said.
�Other teams know it, they prepare for us, they don�t take the initiative, and then they capitalise on our mistakes.�
Chile and Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Charles Aranguiz left the game at halftime with an unspecified injury after a hard tackle by Tim Cahill, and Pizzi said he was �in a lot of pain.�
On a positive note, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo returned after a 2-month layoff because of a calf injury and showed no signs of rust.
�World-class players have that ability,� Pizzi said. �We�re talking about one of the best goalkeepers in the world, with an extraordinary career, and we�re very happy that he�s back with us.�
At St Petersburg, Ronaldo took part in Portugal training on Monday as the European champions prepared for their Confederations Cup clash against Chile.
Portugal suffered a blow in their match against New Zealand as one of their best players, Bernardo Silva, picked up an injury.
And the Manchester City man is still clearly struggling with the blow as he missed out on Monday morning�s training session.
This came despite Silva tweeting on Sunday: �Everything is fine with my ankle�.
Silva could be back for Wednesday�s game. Silva along with Raphael Guerreiro were absent during Monday�s training session. � Agencies