Vidal says beating Germany would make Chile world’s best
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Arturo Vidal and Chile want to be the unofficial world champions.
It may be only the Confederations Cup on the line when Chile faces Germany in Sunday’s final, but the combative midfielder wants to claim the bragging rights over his German teammates at Bayern Munich.
It could be the third title in as many years for Chile’s golden generation of players. They racked up Copa America wins in 2015 and 2016, beating Lionel Messi’s Argentina in both finals, and defeated Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal on penalties in Wednesday’s Confederations Cup semifinal.
“We have proven our value on the pitch. We beat Argentina, which is one of the best teams and a few days ago we beat Portugal, the European champion,” Vidal said. “So tomorrow, if we win we will be the best team in the world.”
Germany coach Joachim Loew said Chile was far outperforming expectations.
“We wonder about how so many good players come from Chile,” he said. “If such a small country can take such a prominent role in football ... that’s a great, great achievement”
Fatigue could be an issue for a Chile team that has played eight games in a month and went to penalties against Portugal, but Vidal hopes the will to win can make up for any tired legs.
“Our fuel reserves never run empty,” he said. “Today we are ahead of the final and the pleasure is a unique situation in football.”
Sunday’s final will pitch youth against experience, with an experimental Germany side taking on a Chile team that has kept the same key players for several years.
The Confederations Cup is FIFA’s dress rehearsal for the World Cup, but for Germany it’s an audition.
Loew’s young players know they’re fighting each other for a chance in next year’s World Cup squad, when key players from the victorious 2014 side like Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller are set to return. The German under-21 team’s European Championship win on Friday means younger players are staking a claim to a World Cup place too.
Chile and Germany drew 1-1 in the group stage, with Lars Stindl canceling out Alexis Sanchez’s sixth-minute opener for Chile.
Loew said his team was left in “disarray” by Chile’s fast-starting, hard-charging style, before recovering later on. He’ll rotate his team after Thursday’s 4-1 semifinal win over Mexico.
“There will be changes,” Loew said. His rotations so far have yielded explosive contributions from formerly fringe players.
Germany’s lively start against Mexico was in part due to the speed of right wing back Benjamin Henrichs, who had played just 16 minutes in the group stage. On his only appearance, Kerem Demirbay opened the scoring goal in a 3-1 win over Cameroon, and substitute Amin Younes scored in a late cameo appearance against Mexico.
Loew faced criticism at home ahead of the Confederations Cup for leaving out big-name players.
“I feel vindicated,” he said Saturday. “What will happen this year is still on another page. The players who have played here have made a very favorable impression.”
Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said his team wouldn’t underestimate the young Germans, whose time at top clubs made them wise beyond their years.
“While it is true that because of their age they can seem like beginners or youngsters, they have a lot of experience despite their youth,” he said. “That makes them a formidable opponent.”
AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar also contributed to this story.