Chile World Cup 2014 Team Profile

Chile - World Cup 2014 Team Profile

Chile.

Sean O'Conor reports

Road to Brazil

Chile finished third in South American qualifying, behind Argentina and Colombia, the only teams to beat them in Santiago. They won their other six home games but were a shadow of themselves away from home, losing to Argentina, Ecuador, Peru and Uruguay. La Roja scored 29 goals, two more than second-placed Colombia but conceded almost twice as many, 25 in 16 games.

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Fixtures

Chile team jersey kit 1 (c) Soccerphile. Chile team jersey kit 2 (c) Soccerphile.

Chile Kit 1
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Chile Kit 2
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Chile v Australia 13 June; Cuaiba
Chile v Spain 18 June; Rio de Janeiro
Chile v Netherlands; 23 June; Sao Paulo

Analysis

Chile were a talented and exciting side in 2010 and will be so again in 2014. Talismanic manager Marcelo Bielsa has gone, but his philosophy remains: pressing high up the pitch, quick passing in midfield, the intelligent use of width and space and energetic forward play.

If it is true that the World Cup has got boring, particularly in the group stage, then Chile's proof that an attacking approach can pay dividends lights the way ahead.

La Roja's attractive style caught the eye at the last World Cup, even if they went out in the second round, but their stock has risen after finishing third in the CONMEBOL qualifiers where they scored as many as the group winners Argentina.

More people sat up and took notice after they drew 2-2 with Spain before blanking England 2-0 at Wembley last winter. The Three Lions were comprehensively beaten by a quicker, smarter team with real cutting edge up front. After an unlucky 1-0 loss to Germany in March of this year, Joachim Low commented, "Few times has a team put us under so much pressure."

Finishing above Ecuador and Uruguay in the qualifiers and playing in South America has led many to tip Chile as the tournament's dark horse, and no-one will look forward to playing them on South American soil.

Playing the weakest team first (Australia) is a bonus. Providing they win, as they should, Chile will be above one of the Netherlands and Spain after the first game and hold a psychological edge. Their closing match with the Dutch is already being tipped to be the winner-takes-all clash of the round.

The shape is roughly a 3-4-1-2 but morphs into 4-3-3 or 3-3-1-3 depending on the opposition. With the emphasis on putting their rivals on the back foot, Cesar Sampaoli likes to leave only three at the back with two wing-backs ahead of them, although in four of the seven qualifiers Sampaoli was in charge for, they played a back four.

In goal is Real Sociedad's Claudio Bravo, who is a reasonable shot-stopper and excellent distributor but can mis-time the odd charge out of his goal mouth.

Cardiff's enforcer Gary Medel should start at centre-back with Nottingham Forest's versatile Gonzalo Jara beside him. The wing-backs are Juventus' Mauricio Isla on the left and Santos' Eugenio Mena on the left. Universidad de Chile's Jorge Rojas provides strong cover at centre-back.

Arturo Vidal, at the top of his game after a Serie A winning season with Juventus, is the keystone of the team, and can play in several positions too, but underwent essential knee surgery last month so may not be match-sharp. If fit, the 27 year-old should be one of the tournament's top midfielders, though needs to curb his temper first.   

Vidal is best on the right of midfield with Basel's Marcelo Diaz holding the centre. On his other flank is Charles Aranguiz, who piles his trade in Brazil with Internacional. Beyond them, in the hole is another Brazilian-based man, Palmeiras' Jorge Valdivia, picked for his creativity and measured passing, a cooler head than many.

Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas are the two forwards, tasked with finding space and and using width to open up the middle by dragging defenders away. Sanchez is a marauding menace to any defence but Chile lack a true central striker as a focus of attacks, which leaves them dominating many games they end up losing.

Chile's game-plan depends on playing on the front foot and preventing their opponents from imposing their style.

Defensively they are less stellar than when going forward and while they often boss the game and dominate the passing and shooting statistics, they can end up falling to a set piece or counter-attacking goal. They lack height in defence and like Brazil, their full-backs' love of raiding leaves exploitable gaps behind them.

Turning the tables by hitting them on the counter is an obvious reposte, and Chile's high-octane style means they have disciplinary problems with more than a few desperate tackles in the heat of battle.

Key player: Alexis Sanchez

The Barcelona star is the focus of Chile's attacks with good reason. He is quick, strong, difficult to mark and with an eye for goal. Half forward, half winger, he will be the first Chilean noted down on opponents' scouting reports.

Still only 25, he has scored 39 goals in 88 games for Barcelona in three seasons following spells with Udinese, Colo-Colo and River Plate. Signed by Pep Guardiola in 2011 after being tipped as one of the world's most promising young players.

His brace at Wembley against England last November confirmed he will be a menace to the best defences in Brazil.

One to watch: Marcelo Diaz

Marcelo Diaz has won a host of admirers for his midfield displays for Basel in the UEFA Champions League. A quick-thinking passer who has been called "the South American Xavi", the 27 year-old is travelling to his first World Cup having broken into the national team in 2011. He links up again with Sampaoli, his former coach at Universidad de Chile.

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli

The Argentine coached Universidad de Chile to three straight league titles and the semi-final of the Copa Libertadores. Sensibly, he has not tinkered with the formula which revived Chile under Marcelo Bielsa and used his all-Argentine back room staff to continue teaching the Bielsa method.

FIFA World Ranking

Record

Semi Finals 1962; Second Round 1998, 2010; First Round 1930, 1950, 1966, 1974, 1982.

World Cup Betting

Soccerphile Says

In any other group, Chile would have been odds-on to make it to the second round, but as another victim of FIFA's demented seeding system, they are only 50-50 to make it out of Group B. That said, their bubbling confidence, the South American conditions and the apparent vulnerability of the Dutch give them hope. It is unlikely they will beat both the Dutch and the Spanish but stranger things have happened.

On paper they should be quarter-final material, but they equally could end up facing Brazil in the next phase, which looks too big a hurdle. Whatever their fate, let us hope we seem some of the positive attacking football which has entertained us on their road to the finals.

2014 World Cup Squad

Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile), Cristopher Toselli (Universidad Catolica)

Defenders: Gary Medel (Cardiff City), Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest), Jose Rojas (Universidad de Chile), Eugenio Mena (Santos), Mauricio Isla (Juventus)

Midfielders: Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras), Felipe Gutierrez (Twente), Jose Pedro Fuenzalida (Colo Colo), Francisco Silva (Osasuna), Arturo Vidal (Juventus), Charles Aranguiz (Internacional), Marcelo Diaz (Basel), Carlos Carmona (Atalanta), Miiko Albornoz (Malmo)

Strikers: Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona), Esteban Paredes (Colo Colo) Eduardo Vargas (Valencia), Jean Beausejour (Wigan Athletic), Mauricio Pinilla (Cagliari), Fabian Orellana (Celta)