Guillermo Maripan (top) of Chile heads the ball during the match against Croatia at 2017 China Cup International Football Championship in Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Jan. 11, 2017. (Xinhua/Cao Can)
NANNING, China, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- As goalkeeper Christopher Toselli made two great saves in the penalty shoot-outs, Chile beat Croatia 5-2 to reach the final of the 2017 Gree China Cup International Football Championship here on Wednesday evening.
Chile took the lead in the 19th minute when Cesar Pinares curled the ball into the net after a pass from Eduardo Vargas.
Vargas himself would have doubled the lead, but his shot inside the box in the 36th minute was blocked by Croatian goalie Dominik Livakovic. He got two one-on-one opportunities around the hour but his attempts were all saved by the keeper.
In the 76th minute, Franko Andrijasevic equalized for Croatia and the game was dragged into the penalty shoot-outs after a 1-1 tie at regular time.
And the moments came for goalkeeper Toselli. He blocked the attempts of both Domagoj Antolic and Mirko Maric to help Chile advance to the final of the inaugural China Cup.
In the final, Chile will meet Iceland on January 15, while host China will fight for the third place against Croatia a day earlier.
"Considering the importance of the match, I feel satisfied with our performance tonight, especially when there is pretty new selection of players. We only had one training session. To the other end, Chile is much more standardized. So they get more preparation for this game," said Croatia head coach Ante Cacic.
"I would like to congratulate Chile on reaching the final. They created more opportunities to score during the match. The penalties are always lottery, I think Chile is little bit calmer and they deserve to go to the final," Cacic added.
"Our performance in the second half was not so good as the performance in the first 45 minutes because we traveled a long way here and some of us suffered the problem of jet lag. Croatia played well in the game. It feels good to win the game through penalty shootouts, because it helps the players to improve their mentality," said Chile head coach Juan Pizzi.
The China Cup, initiated by the Wanda Group and the Chinese Football Association, is an A-grade international event acknowledged by the world football governing body FIFA, and is widely tipped to be a platform for the hosts to hone their skills ahead of their long-shot bid for the Russia 2018 World Cup.