Chile is a team that first caught my eye in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. At that time, the likes of Bravo, Medel, Vidal and Sanchez were unknown quantities. Since their play in that tournament and the subsequent moves to bigger clubs for Sanchez and Vidal, they are no longer a surprise but hardly any easier to deal with.
Their qualifying for this edition of the tournament was up and down but in the end they did qualify from a very tough CONMEBOL group by beating who they were suppose to and getting an occasional result versus teams of the same calibre. That was reflected in their goal differential of +4, having scored 29 and conceded 24. Midway through qualifying they replaced their coach, which saw them win 5 out of their last 6 games and finish third in the group.
Players & System
Chile has some of the most dynamic attacking players in the game. Forward Alexis Sanchez can lead the attack or play on the wing; he has blazing speed and has the build to take punishment from the defence. At the centre of it all is Arturo Vidal. He unquestionably makes this team tick. He’s got a great eye for a pass but his defensive ability and gift for being able to transition quickly from making a hard tackle to a quick counter is almost unparalleled. Vidal is questionable to start versus Australia but will likely be ready for the match against Spain.
Offensively you have the likes of Sanchez & Vidal, already mentioned, as well as Vargas from Valencia. This attack had 14 goals between them in qualifying. Vargas is very quick and technical and like Sanchez can interchange positions, making this team very capable from anywhere on the pitch.
The man making them tick is Jorge Valdivia from Palmeiras. He is very much a traditional “10” that is technically gifted and more than capable of shredding defences given the chance and space. These are the notable players, it really must be said that there is a lot of technical ability in this squad, with seemingly all the players being able to play a variety of positions. A great example of that is Jean Beausejour, the fullback from Wigan; he can play either side of the pitch, plays fullback for his club and at the national team level actually plays on the wing. With the untimely injury of Matias Fernandez, it is likely that you will see Beausejour deployed on the left wing for this Chilean side.
The defence is led by a no-nonsense, brick wall of a man, Gary Medel. The hard tackler takes his duties very seriously and is not afraid in the least to be Chile’s “hard man”. Chile will deploy a three man defence with Medel at the heart of it. You can see any number of combinations with the likes of Isla, Jara, or Mena. Continuing in the tradition of this team, Mauricio Isla can play either in defence or in the midfield. They will be captained by the goalkeeper from Real Sociedad, Claudio Bravo, who is very much hit and miss; he is very aggressive and that can cost his team at times.
Conclusion & Prediction
Chile is just as likely to give everyone in the group problems as they are in getting beat in every match. They are THAT hot and cold. With the likes of Spain and The Netherlands and to a lesser extent, Australia, this group could be very straight forward or be a complete toss-up.
Chile implementing their 3-4-3 will cause teams to adjust in midfield if they don’t want to be overrun. Those adjustments will decide the matches. The teams capable of adjusting and still maintaining the ability to sustain their attacks against this Chile side have a good opportunity to score goals as seen by the gluttony of goals conceded during qualifying. Conversely, if the adjustments the teams make to Chile do not include constant pressuring and closing down of their forwards, but an acceptance that they will maintain possession, it will allow the technical ability of this squad to flourish. For the neutral, this will be a VERY fun group to watch.
My prediction is that Chile and Spain will go through for the group and a surprised Dutch team will join the Australians in an early vacation.
Written by @Gooner_In_BCN