THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

wsc328 previewIf expectations weren't low enough for Australia after an unconvincing qualifying campaign, back-to-back 6-0 thumpings by Brazil and France in September and October left no room for illusion. Subsequent optimism sparked by Ange Postecoglou replacing Holger Osieck as coach was offset by a nightmare group and long-term injury to Leverkusen's Robbie Kruse, until then the team's most promising performer in a top European league.

Postecoglou has surfed a wave of enthusiasm based on not being Osieck, plus his A-League achievements, a bluff personality and willingness to blood younger players. Anything remotely positive that comes out of the World Cup should maintain that reputation for a while – getting a point might qualify him for a ticker-tape reception.

There was a bit of grumbling in Chile when Pelé tipped them to do well. Fans would be happy with qualification from the group considering the draw. Coach Jorge Sampaoli is a self-confessed disciple of one of his predecessors, Marcelo Bielsa, something which is mentioned in every profile of him. The fans have been enjoying seeing the team go toe-to-toe with opponents while playing in an expansive style.

Alexis Sánchez is a popular figure in Chile and his face his plastered on a number of adverts, including one for Gillette where he appears as a weightlifter, diver, Formula One driver, boxer and more. Meanwhile, all the players star in a new film, El Sueno de Todos (Everyone's Dream), about the qualification for the World Cup. Tim Cahill is about the only Australian player left with enough brand recognition to be in demand. Among his current endorsements is Shoreditch London, an upmarket menswear range. Cahill wears the suits and walks around – tame compared with his previous outings as a "Weetbix kid", which included saving Australia from impending collision with an asteroid (in partnership with Brett Lee).

Gary Medel is the most interesting Chilean player, going from shaving the national flag and his No 17 into his hair, to having fights with his family, seemingly as a form of greeting. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Johnny Herrera caused controversy in February by calling some of his own fans "idiots" in an interview. The Australian youngsters seem an amiable and self-deprecating bunch, quick to call themselves "quiet and shy" (Tommy Oar) or "not exactly head of the school debating team" (Tom Rogic), while Dario Vidosic is "a bit of a DJ" and goes dirt-bike riding. Most of the talking is likely to be done by Cahill and uncontroversial types such as Mile Jedinak and Mark Milligan.

Free-to-air TV coverage in Chile will be split between the private network Canal 13 and the state-owned TVN. The latter's team will include retired striker Patricio Yáñez, famous for grabbing his testicular region and motioning to Brazil fans at a World Cup qualifier in the Maracanã in 1989, when Chile keeper Roberto Rojas pretended to be hit by a flare to get the game abandoned. Around 50,000 fans are expected to travel to Brazil and their main chant will  be "Chi, Chi, Chi, Le, Le Le…Viva Chile!".

In Australia, the more entertaining ex-players involved in punditry, such as Mark Bosnich, are tied to the pay-TV Fox Sports rather than free-to-air SBS, which will broadcast all games live. Their stodgy coverage will be led by Craig Foster (knowledgeable but irritating), backed up by the enigmatic Ned Zelic and former striker David Zdrilic. Australians have bought more tickets than any other country bar the hosts and the US, so support should be healthy in numbers, if pessimistic in outlook. Mike Ticher & Joel Sked

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