Late Goal Burns Chileans Again in Tie With Austria
Unless something dramatic happens in their final first-round game, Chile’s players will fly home to Santiago with at least one award in their luggage:
Hard-luck team of the World Cup tournament.
For the second consecutive game, the South Americans were on the verge of a victory here Wednesday. For the second consecutive game, that victory was snatched from their grasp.
This time it was Austria’s Ivica Vastic who did the damage, taking a pass from Roman Mahlich in injury time, momentarily freezing three defenders and then striking a right-footed shot into the upper right corner of the Chilean net during “injury time,” in the 92nd minute of the match.
The goal salvaged a 1-1 tie for Austria, just as Roberto Baggio’s penalty kick goal during injury time in Chile’s first game last Thursday had grabbed a 2-2 tie for Italy in a game the South Americans dominated.
After Vastic’s shot, Nelson Tapia, Chile’s goalkeeper, lay face-down on the ground at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne, unable to believe that a victory had again eluded his team.
Nor was Coach Nelson Acosta any less upset.
“It was exactly the same thing as happened against Italy,” he said. “We are suffering.
“I really cannot understand what happened. We completely dominated the match. We scored a magnificent goal, and there were only seconds left.
“Vastic was left alone, allowed to turn. He shot and that was the end of it.”
The result, combined with Italy’s 3-0 victory over Cameroon later in the day, left the group race wide open. Italy leads with four points, Chile and Austria each have two and Cameroon has one. The top two teams advance.
But for Baggio and Vastic, the Chileans today would have been celebrating joining Brazil in the final 16. Instead, they face a tricky game against Cameroon that they must at least tie to have any chance of reaching the second round.
Austria, meanwhile, is in an even more precarious position. It has to play Italy and hope for more last-minute heroics.
In their first match, the Austrians tied Cameroon on a last-minute goal by Anton Polster. This time, the Croatian-born Ivica was their hero.
“It’s no miracle, it’s football,” midfielder Harald Cerny said.
Unfortunately, the football in Saint-Etienne on Wednesday was decidedly dull. This was the most unattractive match of the tournament to date, but it was saved by two late goals.
With a 0-0 tie threatening, Chile managed to take the lead in the 70th minute. Not surprisingly, its strike force of Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano was involved. Both players had poor games and both were yellow-carded by Egyptian referee Gamal Ghandour, Salas for dissent and Zamorano for a foul.
But both came through when it mattered.
Second-half substitute Jose Sierra floated a ball into the Austrian penalty area, Zamorano climbed over a defender to head it sharply downward toward the net, but Austrian goalkeeper Michael Konsel managed to block it.
Immediately, Salas was on hand to force the rebound over the line, although Austrian players disputed that the ball had entered the net. Austria’s coach, Herbert Prohaska, did not protest.
“I could get angry about Chile’s goal, but that wouldn’t change the result,” he said. “At the end, I wasn’t expecting the draw, but I always hoped it would happen. . . . We make life difficult for ourselves.”
Salas’ goal tied him with Italy’s Christian Vieri for top scorer at France 98 with three goals.
“Of course I’m happy to score and be top scorer in the tournament,” he said. “But the most important thing is to qualify for the next stage.”
Given the way Chile’s luck has been running, there are no guarantees that will happen.