Chile to substitute heavily during Northern Ireland encounter

Chile star Alexis Sanchez
Chile star Alexis Sanchez

Chilean coach Jorge Sampaoli plans regular substitutions during a friendly match with Northern Ireland to minimize the risk of injuries ahead of the World Cup.

“We’re planning to rotate the 23 players. Maybe some of those that played in the previous match [friendly against Egypt last Friday], won’t play in this one. And maybe those that didn’t play much will play more in this game,” Sampaoli said.

“We have to be prepared because the World Cup is long and we need more than just 11 players,” he told press in Santiago ahead of Chile’s last warm-up match in Valparaiso.

One player that will make the starting line-up is playmaker Jorge Valdivia who plays at Brazilian side Palmeiras and is renowned for disrupting defenses.

“We’ll need him for a match where we think the team will play a similar style to Egypt, closed at the back. So his inventiveness and creativity will be important,” Sampaoli said.

Chile already has one injury concern, Juventus star midfielder Arturo Vidal, who was included in Sampaoli’s final 23 despite having knee cartilage surgery at the beginning of May after suffering a tear to the external meniscus.

However, the coach said he was amazed at the speed of Vidal’s recovery.

Other mayor threat players for Northern Ireland include Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas (playing in Valencia on loan from Napoli) and wing backs, Juventus’ Mauricio Isla and Wigan’s Jean Beausejour.

Northern Ireland’s best chances at getting a goal will come from set-pieces and Sampaoli expressed concern about Chile’s aerial game given that the average height of his players is 1.75m.

“This issue is a concern, but we will prepare ourselves well in set-pieces… we do not think that height is something that we cannot deal with. We’ll have to defend aggressively and anticipate situations,” Sampaoli said.