Another September night in South Florida, another spirited international soccer friendly.
Chile, with 16 of its World Cup players on the roster and nine in its starting lineup, defeated Haiti 1-0 Tuesday night at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Considering the disparity of experience on their squads, the game was closer than expected.
The Chileans have played in eight World Cups and reached the Round of 16 in Brazil before losing to the host Brazilians in a penalty-kick shootout. They have 11 players based in Europe, including star Alexis Sanchez, who joined Arsenal from Barcelona over the summer on a $48 million transfer.
Haiti has played in just one World Cup — in 1974 — and relies almost entirely on domestic players. The Haitians were seeking to rebound after dropping to No. 113 in the world, an all-time-low ranking. The team had only one win in an 11-game span the past few years, leading to the dismissal of coach Israel Cantero.
French-speaking Martinique native Marc Collat, who has coached in France, was hired to replace Cantero. The team tied Kosova 0-0 on March 5 and had been idle until Tuesday.
Chile, coming off a 0-0 tie against Mexico on Saturday, struck in the 20th minute. Forward Juan Delgado collected a cross from Mauricio Isla that bounced off the hands of Haitian goalkeeper Johny Placide and put it in the net.
Sanchez had a chance to increase Chile’s lead in the 49th minute. He launched a perfectly struck free kick from just outside the box, but Placide was there to make the save. Sanchez played 86 minutes and had a good shot in the 85th minute, but Placide punched it out.
Haiti’s best chance to score in the first half came in the 36th minute, with an on-target shot by Kervens Belfort, a 22-year-old who plays for Grenoble in France on loan from Swiss club FC Sion. Haiti came very close to scoring twice in the second half, first on a free kick by Pascal Millien in the 52nd minute and four minutes later on a Belfort shot that went just right of the post.
Jean Eudes Maurice also had an opportunity from up close in the 79th minute, but his crossing shot went wide left.
Fort Lauderdale Strikers midfielder James Marcelin and forward Fabrice “Fafa” Picault, the team’s leading scorer this season, were called up to the Haitian team and trained with them last week. It was the 23rd national team appearance for Marcelin, who entered the game in the 78th minute.
Fafa was a late scratch with an injury. He had been looking forward to playing in the match. He was born in New York City to Haitian parents and moved to South Florida as a child.
He played for several Miami youth clubs and moved to Italy at 15 to play in the Cagliari youth system before returning to the NASL.
A crowd of about 7,500 was in attendance, and both teams got plenty of love. The Haitians filled the East end zone, and the Chileans sat in the West end zone and the north stands.
An hour before the match, cars waving giant Chilean and Haitian flags sat on I-95 waiting to get off at the Commercial Boulevard exit.
“Chi-Chi-Chi! Le-Le-Le! Viva Chile!’’ echoed through the stadium all night.
Heavy rain set in the final five minutes of the match, sending fans sprinting to the parking lot.