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Old June 24, 2010, 04:03 PM
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al-Sagar al-Sagar is offline
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Default Chile v Spain

Del Bosque's Spain at risk of early departure

his much-anticipated match between two stylish sides in Pretoria could prove to be a tense affair as Group H comes to a convoluted conclusion. With one game remaining, both Chile and Spain could top the group, qualify in second or take an early flight home. A dramatic contest awaits.

For Spain, a premature exit is unthinkable, but all too possible. Vicente del Bosque's side came into the tournament as favourites but an opening defeat to Switzerland has put their campaign in jeopardy. While a win guarantees them a place in the second round, la Furia Roja must be wary of Switzerland, who are level on three points at present. With Ottmar Hitzfeld's side expected to beat Honduras, a draw against Chile could prove terminal for the Spanish.

It would be a huge shock if a team boasting the most technically-gifted midfield in world football and the attacking talents of David Villa and Fernando Torres were to be eliminated, but that is the scenario haunting Del Bosque. Relief comes with the news that Andres Iniesta is likely to return from injury and he could replace Jesus Navas in an advanced role.

Meanwhile, despite winning their opening two games, Chile have not guaranteed qualification and they will be eliminated if they lose and Switzerland beat Honduras while making up a goal difference deficit of two. Marcelo Bielsa's side are also deprived of Matias Fernandez and Carlos Carmona due to suspension, so there is real cause for concern.

Chile player to watch: Alexis Sanchez.
Hardly an original choice given he has been his country's standout performer in wins over Honduras and Switzerland, but Friday's game gives Sanchez the chance to make his mark on one of the tournament favourites. Blessed with pace and superior technique, the winger is a dazzling presence in the Chile side and rumours of a possible move to Real Madrid are likely to gather pace if he can unlock Spain.

Spain player to watch: Iker Casillas. Not long ago, Casillas was regarded as the finest goalkeeper in the world but his reputation has taken a minor battering of late. His performances in South Africa have been unconvincing and with Chile impressing in their first two victories, the Real Madrid 'keeper may have to rediscover his best form if his country are to progress to the knockout stages. Though he is a favourite of Vicente del Bosque, Casillas needs to prove why he is chosen ahead of Jose Reina and Victor Valdes.

Key battle: Claudio Bravo v David Villa.
The Chile 'keeper has only had to make three saves in the tournament so far following 1-0 wins over Honduras and Switzerland, and in Villa he comes up against one of the premier predators in world football. Villa scored twice in a 2-0 defeat of Honduras, the first a superb finish, and having missed the chance to claim a hat-trick when poking a penalty wide, he will be looking to make amends and improve his chances of winning the Golden Boot. He is available after FIFA took no action following his spat with Emilio Izaguirre of Honduras.

Trivia: If Spain and Switzerland both win, then three teams will finish level on six points. No team has ever been knocked out with six points in the history of the World Cup. When wins were worth two points, Algeria were knocked out with four points following an infamous 1-0 win for West Germany against Austria that saw both teams qualify.

Stats: Having not won a World Cup game for 48 years, Chile are now looking to make it three from three in the group stage.

Odds: Chile (7.00), the draw (4.20) and Spain (1.50) with Bet365 A 2-2 draw is 21.00.

Prediction: Spain surely have too much class to go home this early. They will dig out a win, but only just.
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