Here are five key players to watch in the Confederations Cup semifinal between Portugal and Chile on June 28.
Portugal and Chile meet Wednesday with a trip to the Confederations Cup final on the line. Here are five key players that will determine the outcome of the match.
Ronaldo is the key player in almost every game he plays, and he’s been one of Portugal’s key men in the tournament so far. The Real Madrid star has transformed his game this season, becoming more of a natural number 9 than the all-action winger he was in his younger days, but he remains an outstanding goalscorer. He scored twice in the group stage, which ties him for the tournament lead, and if Portugal advance to the final, there’s a good chance he’ll be on the score sheet.
Isla is a versatile defender who Chile have used at right-back throughout the tournament. Isla has spent the majority of his career playing in Italy, where he has occasionally been used in midfield. While with the national team, Isla has been a staple of Chile’s back four for the past decade with Jean Beausejour, Gonzalo Jara and Gary Medel, who will miss the semifinal with an injury. Defensively, Isla uses his high work rate to win back possession for Chile. Against Portugal, Isla and the rest of the Chilean defense will have their hands full trying to slow down Ronaldo. For Chile to advance to the final, they need Isla to play a mistake-free game and keep Portugal from getting the ball into the box.
Pepe, even at 34 years old, is the key player at the heart of Portugal’s back line. Then again, that might be because he plays next to the 35-year-old Bruno Alves. Pepe may be getting old, but he’s still the hard-tackling, card-prone, excellent defender he’s always been. He’ll be key in dealing with Eduardo Vargas and, in particular, Alexis Sanchez.
Vidal might be Chile’s most important player. Defensively, the Bayern Munich player is a disruptive force that will break up the Portugal attack before it reaches Chile’s box. Vidal is also a threat on free-kicks and corners and can add the occasional goal. His energy also tends to set the tempo for Chile as a whole. If there’s one negative to Vidal’s game, it’s his sometimes reckless play. But that’s the fine line La Roja like to tread.
While Vidal sets the tempo for Chile in midfield, Sanchez provides the creative spark up top. The Arsenal man’s equalizer against Germany in the group stage took him ahead of Marcelo Salas as La Roja‘s all-time top goalscorer, and he’ll be the best individual player Portugal’s solid defense have faced so far this tournament. Chile have yet to hit their best form, but Sanchez can win any game by himself, regardless of what’s going on behind him.