SANTIAGO • Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi hailed two-goal hero Alexis Sanchez as "one of the best players in the world" after their 3-1 World Cup football qualifying win over Uruguay on Tuesday.
The forward risked the wrath of his Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger by playing in the Santiago showdown despite injuring a hamstring during training last week.
The Frenchman had expressed fear that Chile would be making a "suicidal" decision if Sanchez was fielded.
Number of goals Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez has scored for his country, just one behind the team's record scorer Marcelo Salas.
However, the 27-year-old's injury gamble paid off and he showed no sign of ill health with two second-half goals to seal Chile's comeback victory.
Edinson Cavani had put Uruguay in front after 14 minutes before the hosts hit back just before half-time through Eduardo Vargas' header.
"Individuals speak for themselves, Alexis is among the best players in the world," Pizzi told reporters post-match.
"But I am more in favour of emphasising the strengths of the group. And it is what allowed us to turn the game.
"We value individuality, but I think today the great merit of reversing the outcome is based solely on the collective. Everyone understands how to solve things by doing it together."
The defeat snapped Uruguay's four-match unbeaten streak, while preventing the country from leap-frogging Brazil atop the South American standings.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said: "It is football. But we are very much alive. We hope to solve these problems and start the race in March.
"Although we lost today, we are in a good position, considering the previous performances in the qualifiers.
"Today we could have won. The most important thing is the group mentality, attitude. The players left everything on the field."
"In football there are no fair results when opportunities are created and do not materialise," added Tabarez, who will be without forward Luis Suarez for the match against Brazil next year after the star picked up a yellow card.
"Chile tried as hard in the second half as we did in the first.
"Maybe we gave space to their important players. Sanchez is no surprise. (Claudio) Bravo was also decisive."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN