Chile thinks transfer speculation around Alexis Sanchez will drive him to play even better against Portugal in the Confederations Cup semifinals.
Sanchez has been linked with a move away from Arsenal and, far from distracting him, Chile teammate Marcelo Diaz said “he will be able to keep developing during this summer and I think that his personal situation will help him grow.”
Coach Juan Antonio Pizzi suggested the demand for Sanchez is a boost to his self-esteem, saying “we suppose he is very happy because he is going through a very special situation and I think everybody would like to be in this situation because the best clubs in the world want to have him in their squads.”
Diaz suggested Cristiano Ronaldo has single-handedly propelled Portugal into the semifinals, and shutting him down will be Chile’s top defensive priority.
“He played an amazing season in Spain and I think he is playing here with the same strength. That’s the reason why they are also in the semifinal tomorrow,” he said.
“We’ll try to stop him and reduce the space he has to move in … try to avoid that he gets the ball and scores.”
Wednesday’s semifinal in Kazan brings together two teams playing better than ever. Neither had won a major trophy until 2015 but Chile now has two Copa Americas, while Portugal became European champion last year. It also reunites Pizzi with Portugal coach Fernando Santos, 17 years after he was a forward for Santos’ Porto side.
“He deserves our utmost respect, his experience is incredible and I think everybody who knows football respects him,” Pizzi said of Santos.
“He is great for Portuguese football.”