MOSCOW (AP) — Known as one of the hardest-working squads in the world, Chile is starting to feel the wear and tear of its all-out style in the Confederations Cup.
And things won't get any easier for the South American champions when they face Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in the semifinals.
Chile secured its semifinal berth with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Australia on Sunday, and the team will have only two days of rest before facing Portugal on Wednesday in Kazan. The European champions played its last group stage match on Saturday, a breezy 4-0 win over New Zealand in which Ronaldo was substituted with more than 20 minutes left.
Mexico faces Germany in the other semi in Sochi on Thursday.
"We're obviously at a disadvantage," Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said. "Having an extra day of rest at this stage of the tournament, and after the great effort that we've been making, favors the opponent."
Pizzi rested some starters against Australia, but Arsenal striker Alexis Sanchez and Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal played the full 90 minutes. Several times during the match, Sanchez gasped for air and rested his hands on his knees after a run, not showing his usual burst of speed.
Chile plays a very aggressive style, with high pressing and relentless attack. It helped the team win back-to-back Copa America tittles in 2015 and 2016, but it also exposes its defense to counterattacks, something Ronaldo and strike partner Andre Silva will be ready to pounce on.
"Our style of play is very physically taxing, the players have to make a great effort," Pizzi said. "Other teams know it, they prepare for us, they don't take the initiative, and then they capitalize on our mistakes."
Chile and Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Charles Aranguiz left the game at halftime with an unspecified injury after a hard tackle by Tim Cahill, and Pizzi said he was "in a lot of pain."
On a positive note, goalkeeper Claudio Bravo returned after a 2-month layoff because of a calf injury and showed no signs of rust.
"World-class players have that ability," Pizzi said. "We're talking about one of the best goalkeepers in the world, with an extraordinary career, and we're very happy that he's back with us."
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