Alex Wilkinson is not a household name by any means, but on Friday he could well become one. That’s because he will be marshalling Australia’s defence against one of the world’s most potent attacking players, Alexis Sanchez.
The 29-year-old is a late bloomer and has made just three appearances for his country in international football. However, the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors man is likely to start for the Socceroos ahead of fellow centre-backs Ryan McGowan and Bailey Wright against Chile in their opening game of the World Cup.
The South American side will head into the match as favourites, and one of their key players is Sanchez. The 25-year-old Barcelona forward is rated as one of the best attacking players in the world. He has not had the best three years at Camp Nou since his move from Udinese in the summer of 2011, but Sanchez remains an attacking threat for Chile.
Sanchez enjoyed a productive 2013-14 campaign for Barca, scoring 19 goals and providing 10 assists in 34 La Liga matches. Deployed on the wings, the former Cobreloa star cuts inside ever so often and plays as a forward.
Chile have a very good squad and he will get the service he needs from midfield to pick apart Australia’s defence in their opening Group B clash in Cuiaba.
However, Wilkinson says that he will be ready for Sanchez and the rest of the Chile attackers.
‘Of course, it's exciting’, he told Goal.com when asked about facing Sanchez. ‘As a footballer you always want to test yourself against the best... It's exciting and obviously you do have to worry about the individual. They've all got a lot of good strengths that have got them to where they are’.
Sanchez has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United this summer. New Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is reportedly open to letting the attacker leave Camp Nou if an offer of around £20 million is made. The Red Devils are ready to make that bid, but Italian giants Juventus are also said to be interested in Sanchez.
How he plays for Chile in Brazil could have an impact on Sanchez’s future. A string of impressive performances could well convince Barcelona to retain his services for the 2014-15 season, while it could also increase his value in the transfer market.