Sao Paulo (AFP) – Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal on Saturday vowed to strike fear into Japan when the two sides meet in their Copa America opener on Monday.
The two-time reigning champions are not among the favourites this time around having lost some of the players who took them to the 2014 World Cup and back-to-back Copa titles in 2015 and 2016.
But Barcelona’s Vidal is convinced the remnants of Chile’s golden generation still have much to offer in this tournament.
“This squad should be feared, from the beginning to the final. We hope it’s going to be something amazing, but we’re going to take it game by game,” he told reporters from Chile’s hotel in Sao Paulo, where they will play tournament guests Japan.
The Blue Samurai have brought an inexperienced squad to Brazil with an average age of just 22. When it was announced last month, 17 of the squad had yet to earn a cap.
One of those, 18-year-old Takefusa Kubo, has since then not only made his debut but also signed for Real Madrid.
“He’s a player with a lot of quality, there’s a reason he’s at Real Madrid,” said Vidal.
“We’ve seen him, analyzed him really well and we know how to stop this player,” he added of the dribbling wizard nicknamed the “Japanese Messi.”
“Japan are an organized team, they’re quick and we have to be careful, concentrate and when they come out to play we have to try to attack them really quickly because afterwards they go into a 5-4-1 and it’s really hard to score a goal.”
After three years of unprecedented success, Chile came down to earth with a bump in 2017 when they failed to qualify for last year’s World Cup.
There has been change since, with veteran goalkeeper and captain Claudio Bravo one of the players ditched from the squad.
“Everything is starting from new: a new process, new players, new coaches,” said Vidal, who at 32 is one of the oldest players in Colombian coach Reinaldo Rueda’s squad and one of six with more than a century of caps.
“It took us many days to talk about and clear up things.”