Three cheers of bravo for Chile

From top: Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo reacting in jubilation on Wednesday against Portugal in the Confederations Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out, in which he saved against Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho and Nani.
Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo (above) reacting in jubilation on Wednesday against Portugal in the Confederations Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out, in which he saved against Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho and Nani.PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS

He saves all Portugal's penalties as Chileans advance to third straight international final

KAZAN (Russia) • Chile's indestructible team spirit and unyielding attitude have laid the foundations for a hugely successful run that will see them contest a third straight international football final at the Confederations Cup.

Claudio Bravo proved their hero on Wednesday when the Manchester City goalkeeper saved all three penalties to eliminate Portugal in a semi-final shoot-out following a 0-0 draw after extra time in Kazan.

"That was unbelievably stressful," admitted the 34-year-old as Chile won 3-0 on penalties to set up a final showdown on Sunday.

"This team never gives up, which means we can achieve great things like this."

While Bravo showed nerves of steel, his team-mates transformed iron will into cool composure as Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz and Alexis Sanchez calmly converted their spot kicks.

With the European champions vanquished, Chile are eager to add the Confederations Cup trophy to their 2015 and 2016 Copa America titles in St Petersburg.

"That was a crazy end, the first penalty is always the most important," said Vidal, who buried Chile's opening penalty kick just inside the post. "We fought like crazy and now we hope we can also win in the final."


Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo reacting in jubilation on Wednesday against Portugal in the Confederations Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out, in which he saved against Ricardo Quaresma (above), Joao Moutinho and Nani. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS

Chile qualified for Russia as South American champions, ahead of powerhouses Argentina and Brazil - winners of the Confederations Cup in 1997, 2005, 2009 and 2013.

The Chileans ended a 99-year wait for a maiden Copa America title in 2015, before retaining their crown a year later in a special centenary edition.


Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo reacting in jubilation on Wednesday against Portugal in the Confederations Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out, in which he saved against Ricardo Quaresma, Joao Moutinho (above) and Nani. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS

Their rise has been consistent, and they were unlucky to lose out to Brazil, the hosts, on penalties in the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup after beating defending champions Spain 2-0 in the group stage.

They shook off that heartbreak to beat Argentina 4-1 on penalties and lift the Copa America on home soil in 2015.


Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo reacting in jubilation on Wednesday against Portugal in the Confederations Cup semi-final penalty shoot-out, in which he saved against Ricardo Quaresma (above), Joao Moutinho and Nani (above). PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, REUTERS

A year later, Lionel Messi was again reduced to tears and briefly announced his international retirement as Chile downed Argentina following another shoot-out to win the Copa America Centenario, this time in the United States.

Forward Eduardo Vargas was the tournament's top scorer with six goals, while Sanchez was voted the best player and Bravo was nominated the best goalkeeper.

Their back-to-back titles were achieved with roughly the same squad, ensuring it is a group who can draw on the invaluable experience of achieving success on the big stage.

City's Bravo and Arsenal striker Sanchez play regularly in the English Premier League, while Vidal has lifted the German Bundesliga trophy twice in as many seasons since moving to Bayern Munich.

After spells at Bayer Leverkusen and Juventus, Vidal replaced Bastian Schweinsteiger at Bayern and has developed into one of the world's best midfielders, crucially calming his sometimes volatile temper in Bavaria.

He chased Cristiano Ronaldo around the pitch in Kazan, regularly robbing the Real Madrid star of possession and subduing Portugal's leading threat - who will not feature in the third-place match on Sunday as he wants to be with his newborn twins who were born to an unidentified surrogate mother.

The Chileans have earned fans in high places, with Germany coach Joachim Low admitting he was fascinated by Juan Antonio Pizzi's team before last Thursday's 1-1 group-stage draw.

"They are flexible like maybe no other side, very unpredictable," said Low. "Almost every player is capable of scoring and wants to score goals."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2017, with the headline 'Three cheers of bravo for Chile'. Print Edition | Subscribe