Chile takes Honduras 1-0 after tap-in

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NELSPRUIT, South Africa (AP) — Jean Beausejour scored the only goal and Chile beat Honduras 1-0 for its first World Cup victory in exactly 48 years.

In a free-flowing match Wednesday, Chile won the opening game of Group H after Beausejour tapped in a cross from Mauricio Isla in the 34th minute.

Chile came close to doubling its lead on several occasions. In the 62nd minute, Alexis Sanchez sent a clear-cut chance wide after he was put in free by ever-dangerous player Jorge Valdivia. In the 64th minute, defender Waldo Ponce saw his close-range header saved brilliantly by goalkeeper Noel Valladares.

Chile’s last victory during the finals was on June 16, 1962, when it came in third as host of the World Cup by beating Yugoslavia. This is Chile’s first World Cup since 1998, when three draws sent it into the second round.

“We’re very happy, and we have to enjoy this triumph,” Sanchez said. “But we have to move ahead and win the game against our next rival (Switzerland).”

Chile was on the offensive almost from the start, with midfielder Matias Fernandez threatening as early as the second minute with a free kick that curled just over the crossbar after Valdivia was fouled by Wilson Palacios 30 yards from goal.

Valdivia’s tap-in in the 75th minute was ruled offside.

Honduras seldom showed any spark against a well-organized Chile defense led by Gary Medel. Honduras was restricted to long-range efforts, primarily from lone striker Carlos Pavon.

But Honduras‘ best chance came from midfielder Ramon Nunez, whose free kick in first-half injury time was tipped over the net by keeper Claudio Bravo.

“It’s a fair result,” Honduras defender Sergio Mendoza said. “We didn’t have a clear chance at goal. We knew we could lose this match, but qualifying out of the group is not impossible.”

Chile’s attacking style was evident during the South American qualifiers, when it finished in second place behind Brazil. At times Wednesday, it looked as dangerous at the five-time champions.

Known as “El Loco” for his obsessive knowledge of soccer and attention to detail, Coach Marcelo Bielsa — who guided his native Argentina in the 2002 World Cup — is noted for his attacking style. A banner in the stadium showed the regard some fans have for him: “Marcelo Bielsa, Chile thanks you.”

The other two teams in Group H, Spain and Switzerland, played later Wednesday in Durban, completing the first set of opening-round matches.

Honduras-Chile was the first World Cup game in Nelspruit’s Mbombela Stadium, which borders the world-renowned Kruger National Park. The official attendance was 32,664; capacity is 43,000.

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