Entering Chile's World Cup opener, there was one thing dominating the discussion.
Question: Would Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal be able to recover in time to play in Chile's World Cup opener against Australia despite reports saying he wouldn't be able to?
The actual outcome: Arturo Vidal not only played, but got the start in Chile's opener against Australia.
There was another topic to consider, though. Especially so as Friday's final game went on.
Question: Even with the possibility of Vidal playing, how bad would Chile beat Australia?
The actual outcome: Chile got one hell of a game from the Socceroos.
It was certainly a lot closer than the two-goal final scoreline. The 3-1 result in Chile's favor is far from indicative of just how competitive as close it was. Australia, picked to be the bottom nation in the group, gave one of the tournament's sleeper picks all they could handle. Chile was favored by a lot, won by two goals, but had to earn every bit of it after taking a 2-0 lead just 14 minutes into the match.
But, of course, a lot of the focus as we continue to wear our Juventus-colored glasses was on Vidal, who was subbed off in the 60th minute.
DId Vidal play well? Not great, but not terrible, either. He was solid, not spectacular by any means. It wasn't the Vidal we're all used to seeing. He didn't rack up tackles like a mad man, he didn't have those lung-bursting runs from one end of the field to another, he didn't have that burst forward like he usually has when everything is right. And you could tell that he's clearly working his way back to match fitness following his knee surgery last month.
Maybe he was just playing it safe after Chile went up 2-0 and just put things in cruise control to prevent anything from happening, I don't know. It will be interesting to see what he has to say in the next day or two about how he felt.
The real test might be how Vidal's knee responds at training on Saturday after playing close to 60 minutes after barely seeing any kind of match time over the past six weeks. If Vidal feels good to go, then he's just that much closer to being the Vidal his country is hoping for and Juve fans will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. If not...
...well, I don't even want to think about that right now.
Goal. Assist. All within the first 15 minutes of the game. If you're in the camp that wants Juventus to go all out to sign Alexis Sánchez, then this was the game to show somebody who questions your logic just what he is capable of doing.
But if you're Beppe Marotta sitting back in Turin watching Chile vs. Australia from the comfort of your couch, you're probably thinking to yourself "Maybe I should have offered a little bit more to Barcelona the first time around before the World Cup started." Maybe that reported low-ball bid was a mistake...
Here's a visual of the full move that led to Chile's first goal pic.twitter.com/OQfWg5vjsy
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 13, 2014
Sixteen passes from the start of the sequence to the goal from easily one of the biggest transfer targets Juventus are interested in. The goal started with Vidal. It ended with Alexis. It's a sign, I tell you.
OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS
LOL Spain. No Llorente, no party. (Some defending would help, too.)