Chile’s Marcelo Diaz believes the Confederations Cup is the perfect opportunity for La Roja to break new ground as they prepare to meet Cameroon in their Group B opener.
The Copa America champions have never before featured at the tournament and are the sixth side from their continent to participate.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s men sealed their place courtesy of a penalty shoot-out success over Argentina in the 2015 Copa on home soil – a feat they repeated 12 months later in the special centenary edition of the competition.
Cameroon, meanwhile, take their place in Russia by virtue of their fifth Africa Cup of Nations triumph, secured with a 2-1 win over Egypt in the final in February.
Chile, fourth in the FIFA standings, will start as strong favourites in Moscow despite missing goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who is not yet recovered from a calf injury.
“We arrived really well and with enough hope, we believe that we can achieve great things,” Celta Vigo’s Diaz told ESPN.
“This is the occasion to make a new milestone for Chile. We hope to be very excited for Sunday.
“I would say there are eight favourites – there are all the world’s champions plus Russia who are the organisers. The level is going to be pretty good. Germany comes with a young team, but those players do very well in their clubs, so it will be a very difficult competition and we will have to put 200 per cent in on our side.
“It’s nice to feel so much support, people identify a lot with this selection and that’s why they follow us everywhere. We want to endorse that support by winning.”
The competition may come as a welcome distraction for Alexis Sanchez – the only Premier League player to reach double figures for goals and assists in 2016-17 (24 and 10) – whose future at Arsenal remains shrouded in doubt as he enters the final 12 months of his contract.
Sanchez set up Chile’s opener for Eduardo Vargas in Tuesday’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of Romania, a loss which saw Gary Medel sent off for kicking out at Florin Andone – an action criticised by team-mate Arturo Vidal.
Cameroon’s preparations were even less encouraging, meanwhile, as they were thumped 4-0 by Colombia, though two of those goals came following the dismissal of Robert Ndip Tambe.
“Despite the fact that we lost the match, I saw good things on the pitch,” insisted head coach Hugo Broos.
“Again, it was a good test for me; tactically, it allowed me to see the different options before our first game of the Confederations Cup on Sunday. Now we have to focus on Chile.”
Key Opta stats:
– Cameroon and Chile will meet for just the second time; they drew 1-1 in their only previous clash at the 1998 World Cup.
– Cameroon are appearing in their third Confederations Cup; they went out at the group stage in 2001 before reaching the final in 2003.
– Benjamin Moukandjo was Lorient’s top scorer in Ligue 1 this season (13 goals) and was the highest scoring Cameroonian player in Europe’s top five leagues.
– Only Harry Kane (36 – 29 goals and seven assists) was directly involved in more goals than Alexis Sanchez in the Premier League this season.