SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The Chilean miners who survived trapped underground longer than anyone else before have a message for their country's World Cup team: Don't fear the "group of death."
Chile has a strong squad, but in the first round it faces defending champion Spain and 2010 finalist Netherlands. Just advancing out of Group B will be seen as a major success.
But for the miners who were trapped deep underground for 69 days in 2010: "Nothing is impossible for a Chilean." That's the title of their stirring television ad released Wednesday.
In the ad, the men return to the mouth of the mine that nearly became their rocky grave. There, miner Mario Sepulveda gives a moving speech telling Chile's team to courageously fight against all odds, remembering how the miners overcame death itself.
Then, the miners collect sand from the Atacama desert in jars that they hope to send to the team to be poured wherever they play. In the end, the group breaks into a chant of "Chi! Chi! Chi! Le! Le! Le!" — for the country's name.
"My message to our Chile team is that we're going to win. They have the talent and a whole country behind them and they must battle until the end," Sepulveda, the public face of the miners, told The Associated Press. "There are harder things in life and you can conquer them. Chile will not only pass to the second round, but it will surprise everyone."
With world-class players including Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez, Chile finished third in South American qualifying, had a draw with Spain and beat England in friendly matches, and lost only two of 15 games last year.
Chile, which placed third when it hosted the 1962 World Cup, did not qualify for the two tournaments preceding this year's event.
Associated Press writer Eva Vergara contributed to this report