“Oh, viva La Mundial/La Mundial, La Mundial/Viva La Mundial,” chanted the hundreds of flag-waving, cheering Chileans at Paseo Orrego Luca in the waning seconds of the team’s final qualifying match against Ecuador.
Long live the World Cup.
Their beloved squad is going to the 2014 rendition of the world’s biggest sporting event in Brazil after a hard-fought and well-deserved 2-1 victory over a game, but outmanned, Ecuadorean squad-a victory that sparked frenzied horn honking, blowing of vuvuzelas, and passionate embraces.
Playing at their National Stadium in Santiago, Chile would have qualified with a tie. But the team coached by Jorge Sampaoli punched its ticket in impressive fashion with a pair of rapid-fire first-half goal from Alexis Sanchez and Gary Medel.
Sanchez’s header off a probing cross from Eugenio Mena was a particularly elegant strike, and one that prompted him to rip off his shirt in ecstasy. Sanchez headed a ball in the box to Medel directly in front of the goal a couple of minutes, and he converted for a two-goal halftime lead.
The goal caused some apprehension among the multitudes at Paseo, many of whom were enjoying hefty portions of beer and fried food, but the hosts were never seriously threatened after that.
As the minutes wore down into injury time, the chant of Viva Chile grew less anxious and increasingly confident.
Then the final whistle blew, and the eruption of celebrations began.
The Ecuadorean squad didn’t look too disappointed after the match ended, as they, too, will be headed to Brazil next year.