SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - Arturo Vidal made his much-awaited return from injury as Chile beat Northern Ireland 2-0 in its final World Cup warm-up match on Wednesday.
Vidal, who underwent knee surgery just a month ago, made an unexpected appearance as a 76th-minute substitute, and immediately made an impact.
Two minutes after coming on, the Juventus midfielder made a fine pass to Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez lobbed the ball to striker Eduardo Vargas, who headed in the first goal of the match. Sanchez made another inch-perfect pass four minutes later that Mauricio Pinilla sent into the net to seal the win at the Elias Figueroa Stadium in the port city of Valparaiso.
"The decision to let him play was agreed with both the medical team and Arturo. It was important to let him play some minutes and we got a chance to see him again," Chile's coach Jorge Sampaoli said after the match.
"Arturo had a very short recovery and he came were we need him to, thanks to his boldness," Sampaoli said. He always wanted to play this game, and although we had some doubts, he cleared them all. Tomorrow he'll have to get into the rhythm of things so he can be in the opener...It no longer depends on his knee, but on the level for competition."
Vidal underwent knee surgery on May 7 and had been in doubt for Chile's World Cup opener against Australia on June 13. Chile also faces defending champion Spain and 2010 finalist Netherlands in Group B.
Throughout the match, midfielder Jorge Valdivia orchestrated Chile's attack and created good scoring opportunities that were denied by superb saves by goalkeeper Roy Carroll.
Chile continued to struggle to find a way past a defiant Northern Ireland defense until Sanchez, Vidal and Vargas showed the class which Chile will rely upon at the World Cup, which kicks off on June 12.
Luis Andres Henao on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LuisAndresHenao