Chile 1-1 Croatia (Chile win 4-1 on penalties)
11 January 2017
Guangxi Sports Center, Nanning
Scorers: Pinares (Chile), Andrijašević (Croatia)
Chile defeated Croatia on penalties in this unusual China Cup game to retain the UFWC title and remain unofficial football world champions. Both sides fielded unfamiliar teams in Nanning, but the game was classified as an “A” international, and therefore a UFWC title match. The inaugural China Cup tournament also features Iceland and China. Iceland beat China yesterday, so Chile and Iceland will face each other in the China Cup final on Sunday.
As might be expected for a January friendly tournament, neither Chile nor Croatia fielded their recognised first teams, largely due to European club commitments. Chile were without Alexis Sanchez, Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal, and Croatia were missing Luca Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic. The Chile team did include Eduardo Vargas and Jean Beausejour, but the Croatia team included no one who played at last year’s Euro 2016 tournament.
Playing in front of just 6,686 spectators in the 60,000-capacity Guangxi Sports Center, Chile took the lead after 17 minutes. A brilliant run and pass from Vargas found debutant César Pinares, who struck an excellent left-foot shot past goalkeeper Dominik Livaković – also making his international debut.
Chile drew level in the second half, after 75 minutes, through a smart near-post volley from Franko Andrijašević. There were no further goals, and the match went to penalties.
Vargas and Beausejour were among the scorers for Chile, who netted all four of their kicks. Croatia, though, scored only once, through Josip Pivarić. Chile keeper Cristopher Toselli was the hero, saving two penalties as his side won the shoot-out 4-1.
The win puts La Roja into the China Cup final against Iceland this Sunday, 15 January. The match will again be played at the Guangxi Sports Center, and kick-off is 15:35 local time (07:35 GMT). At the time of writing, Chile v Iceland isn’t listed on the FIFA website. However, as FIFA and the Chile and Iceland associations classified the opening China Cup games as A internationals, it seems safe to assume that Chile v Iceland will also be an A international, and therefore a UFWC title match.
Iceland have played in six previous UFWC title matches, but have never won the title. The nation has enjoyed footballing success in recent years, including a famous win over England at Euro 2016. However, many of Iceland’s Euro heroes will be missing, including star man Gylfi Sigurdsson. However, goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson and defender Birkir Saeversson, who impressed in France, will play. Again, though, with so many changes to both teams, it is difficult to predict the result.
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