Ahead of the star-studded international friendly which will pit Chile against Brazil at the Emirates, Gunners forward Alexis Sanchez has spoken to the Arsenal FC website about what football means to the Chilean people.
The former Barcelona man has been a revelation since joining North London outfit Arsenal in last summer's transfer window, registering an impressive 13 goals and seven assists in his debut season at the Emirates.
The player embodies all those South American fighting qualities which have been praised by manager Arsene Wenger, and Sanchez has recently revealed that football is close to a religion in his homeland.
Speaking to the Arsenal website for an in-depth interview ahead of the Brazil-Chile clash at the Emirates, the forward said: "People in Chile are really passionate about football. The summoning power of football in Chilean society is simply amazing."
The Chile star also went on to describe the strong family bods football re-enforces, particularly when the national team faces bitter South American rivals Brazil, revealing: "Families get together to watch the games and as players we try to make those families happy."
Neymar a "bundle of joy"
The two forwards shared the same dressing room at the Camp Nou last season and, ahead of facing his former teammate at the Emirates, Sanchez was asked what it was like playing on the same team as the Brazilian star. A question to which the Chile and Arsenal forward replied: "Neymar raises everyone's spirits, he is a very joyful person. I hope he never changes.
"His happiness is contagious and that's something I really like. As for his quality, everybody knows how good he is.
With the interviewer apparently keen for Sanchez to "dish the dirt" on Neymar, notably what he's like in training, and if he does things fans are not able to see on their television screen, the 26 year old replied: "He does. That is why he is Neymar Jr.
"He dares to do things that no one else would dare. That is the beauty of football."
The two stars have kicked off their much-anticipated reunion by sending each other warmth-filled messages via Twitter. The host, Gunners forward Sanchez, kicked things off with the following message via his twitter page:
So we meet again @NeymarJr Can't wait for the 29th here at the Emirates!!
the Barcelona star was swift to respond to his former teammate's warm welcoming message, tweeting Sanchez back with the following:
So we meet again @Alexis_Sanchez !! Can't wait for the next Sunday!!
If Sanchez's Chile side are to bounce back from a shock 2-0 defeat to under-dogs Iran when they face in-form Brazil at the Emirates, the Gunners star will do well to put all warm feelings towards the Seleção captain to one side.
With the likes of Neymar, Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Oscar set to grace the Emirates on Sunday, there is sure to be plenty of fascinating duels taking place between the two former Barcelona teammates.
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