FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Chile
Football.com will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview.
Group D: Uruguay
Group G: United States
Group H: Russia
Nickname: La Roja
Previous World Cups: 1930, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1982, 1998, 2010
FIFA Ranking: 13
How Did They Get Here?
Chile finished in third place in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying group. They were behind Argentina and Columbia.
Opponents (Match Dates): Australia (6/13), Spain (6/18), Netherlands (6/23)
Projected Group B Finish:Third
Why Will They Finish In Third Place?
Chile is predicted to finish third because most analysts, including me, want to be safe and no overrate this exciting team. The fact that Spain and Netherlands boast world-class stars is primarily the reason why those two teams are predicted to finish higher than Chile. However, Chile boasts serviceable players who play with brilliant cohesion and have tactics that can drive opposing managers mad. If Robin van Persie or Sergio Ramos were Chilean, then perhaps we have a clear favorite to make it out of the group.
How Can They Escape this Group?
Spain and Netherlands have every reason to be afraid of Chile. La Roja play at such a blistering tempo and love to swarm the midfield to the point other teams will be forced to play at Chile’s pace. Spain’s cohesion is dependent on the declining legs of Xavi, while Netherland’s backline are too young and inexperienced. Given their adaptability to Brazil’s muggy climate, Chile holds several advantages over other teams entering this World Cup and are likely to escape the group with a win over Australia, a tie or loss to Spain, and an upset over Netherlands.
Grading each position:
Claudio Bravo of Real Sociedad is a dependable man to have between the posts. He’s like the Chilean Tim Howard in that he isn’t an elite keeper, but he is fundamentally sound and knows how to organize the defense. Given that Chile is a team that’s willing to take a lot of shots at the cost of the other team shooting just as much, Bravo will definitely be tested at the tournament.
La Roja will opt with three true defenders in their lineup, deciding to play with a 3-5-2 formation. Gary Medel, Gonzalo Jara, and Marcos Gonzalez are likely to anchor the back and do everything in their power to break up potential counter-attacks. Mauricio Isla and Eugenio Mena will be playing left and right midfield, respectively, but they will take on the arduous task of running back to protect the flanks in case they’re needed.
The Chilean defense is not intimidating due to their lack of a world-class stopper. Although Gary Medel can be a total menace to opposing attackers, it appears as if the backline is relying on the midfield to participate in breaking up the attack so that they can clean up the mess. Although they could hold off weak teams, against Spain and Netherlands, they will need as much help as they could from the midfield to assist them. Fortunately, Chile is built to play total football and the players boast ridiculous stamina to run up and down the pitch to transition from defense to attack and vice versa.
Chile can only pray that Arturo Vidal will be fit and healthy by the time the World Cup starts. The defensive midfielder is the heart and soul of La Roja due to his disruptive nature on the defensive end and creativity off the pass. FC Basel’s Marcelo Diaz and Atalanta’s Carlos Carmona in the central midfield will aid the Juventus man. Although those two players aren’t well-known names in world football, their chemistry with Vidal and the forwards make them an invaluable piece of the Chilean football machine. Their blistering pace and aggressive style of play makes them a dangerous counter-attacking unit. The combination of cohesion and compact formation make them a tough team to defend, let alone force a turnover. Opposing defenses can only hope to collapse on their attackers in the final third of the pitch and pray they miss their shot.
Eduardo Vargas of Valencia and Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez will be playing up top, and like their comrades at midfield, they too love to use their pace to beat defenders. They know how to move off the ball and time their runs well. Moreover, they can read their midfielders and be at the exact place their teammates want them to be. They do get a lot of chances to shoot; however, they suffer one major problem. Composure. Despite the number of chances they get, the Chileans don’t convert as efficiently as they would like to. The forwards’ lack of physical strength could be the reason for their lack of composure, but if that’s the tradeoff for their blistering speed so be it.
Jorge Sampaoli did exactly what the Chile’s National Association of Professional Football wanted him to do, emulate Marcelo Bielsa’s direct style of football from 2010. Since Sampaoli’s hiring, Chile performed up to their standard during qualifiers and finished third. Although Chile’s direct style of football is certainly entertaining for the fans and dangerous for the opposing teams, it is a double-edged sword. As Sampaoli once told FIFA.com, the team is willing to take as many shots possible even if it means giving the opposing team that same number of shots. Chile would draw out every midfielder possible to participate on the attack and keep their three defenders at bay, leaving themselves open to counterattacks. It’s a risk their willing to take and they know they are skilled enough to handle those risks. Or so they think.
How can they win the World up?
A good offense wins the group. A great defense wins the tournament. Chile will be determined to disprove the latter statement and prove to the world that total football can win the World Cup. That means Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas have to convert every opportunity they’re given and not afford to waste chances. If their opponents score three, then Chile will score four. Not a problem if their players are converting their chances.
What’s There to like about Chile?
Chile is simply a beautiful place to visit. You can either take a trip to the mysterious Easter Islands or hike up the Chilean part of the Andes Mountain. Either way, Chile is simply one of the most beautiful countries in the world where ancient history and nature collide.
America, take note. If you want to go red, white, and blue, this is how you do it.