Chile rue Pinilla's miss
COSTLY: Chile's Mauricio Pinilla after seeing his shot hit the crossbar late in the game. Brazil won 3-2 on penalties. PHOTO: AFP
Chile came agonisingly close to rewriting World Cup history by nearly beating Brazil, but should take heart from a marvellous performance against the hosts this morning (Singapore time), their coach Jorge Sampaoli said.
At 1-1 in the last minute of extra time, Chile substitute Mauricio Pinilla could have won the game, but his shot rebounded off the crossbar.
If he had scored, that would have reversed three previous World Cup defeats by Brazil in Chile's history at the tournament.
But it was not to be, and Brazil won 3-2 on penalties at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte to advance to the quarter-finals, leaving Chile players disconsolate on the floor as celebrations erupted around them.
"Well, that near-goal right at the end has been really hard for us. We so nearly won, it was harsh," said Sampaoli.
"If we had scored then, we would have made history. It would have been the 'Mineirazo'," he said, in reference to Brazil's shock 1950 defeat by Uruguay, known as the "Maracanazo" at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro.
Victory over Brazil would have been all the sweeter for Sampaoli, given his Argentine nationality and the rivalry between those two South American heavyweights.
"I'm very proud of my players. I'm proud for Chile. Everyone was against us in the stadium, but we have given everything, we fought hard. The players have represented the country in a beautiful, wonderful way," he said.
"Our team nearly won today, but moral victories don't count in situations like this."
Sampaoli said his players could not have given more, praising them for neutralising Neymar, and singling out midfielder Arturo Vidal for playing, even though he was not fully fit.
"They had lots of ball possession, they risked injuries. Even in the second half of extra time, they kept fighting and running. If we had scored that last chance, the afternoon would have been much better," he said.
"Today, we're sad and hurt but, after some time, we will be able to appreciate the value of this performance."
Sampaoli said his team prepared properly in case of penalties, but had fully expected to win.
"Penalties are something you always train for but, when you are on the field it's always different, it's more luck than anything else," he said.
"We have been able to give Brazil a fright. We have shown we are on a par with these great teams. I think Brazil will feel better and more confident after today."