By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A late strike by Hoffenheim player and Brazilian national team rookie Roberto Firmino, who came off the bench, gave the Seleção a 1-0 victory over Copa America host Chile in an uneventful friendly match on Sunday, March 29th in Arsenal’s Emirates stadium in London.
Seleção coach Dunga, still unbeaten since he took over as coach after the World Cup in 2014, had made six changes to the starting line-up in comparison to last week’s match against France. Among the new starters were Marcelo for Filipe Luis, Fernandinho for Luiz Gustavo and both midfielder Philippe Coutinho and Douglas Costa for Willian and Oscar.
The game was characterized by its many small fouls with referee Martin Atkinson booking seven players throughout the game and Chilean Gary Mendel escaping what many believe should have been an early send-off after a foul on Neymar.
Chile had most of the possession with 63 percent over the entire game, but didn’t create too many chances out of it and made it an easy day for goalkeeper Jefferson with only one shot on target. The best Chilean player was Arsenal playmaker Alexis Sanchez.
The only goal of the game happened after 72 minutes when Danilo passed through the Chilean defense, and Roberto Firmino outran Chilean goalkeeper Bravo to find the net.
“It’s true Chile controlled the game, but we had more goal chances. So it wasn’t just luck – we deserved to win. We are building a competitive team, working through obstacles very well, played against a very strong France team, changed six players but stayed stable and strong,” Brazil coach Dunga observed after the game.
Brazil is preparing for the South American championship, the Copa America, that will take place in June. The next two games will be on June 7th against Mexico and on June 10th against Honduras already with the team that will be called-up for the championship.
The Copa America is then set to start for Brazil on June 14th in Temuco, Chile against Peru. The squad for the championship will be announced in May.
For Chile Sunday’s game was the third defeat in four matches ahead of being the Copa America’s host and the team will need to step it up if they want to impress their home crowd in June.