Chile: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Best Ever Finish: Third (1962)
Captain: Cladio Bravo
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Sampaoli guided Chile to third place in the CONEMBOL qualifying stages and La Roja have been hotly tipped as a potential outsider for a deep run into the tournament.
The reason why? Well, they have many, many things in their favour going into this World Cup. First and foremost, they will be well acquainted with the conditions and resultantly should have no problems implementing Sampaoli’s high-intensity, high-pressure brand of football.
As such they will have the capabilities at hand to disrupt the opposition and keep the ball for long periods themselves. And with the implementation of their unorthodox 3-4-3 system, they are capable of maintaining possession exceptionally well. The whole team are completely at ease with the ball at their feet and they can run opposition sides ragged with their sharp passing and subtle movements.
Sampaoli – a manager from the Marcelo Bielsa school of coaching – loves his team to play in an aggressive and attacking manner, meaning players like Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas pop up in various attacking positions and cause mayhem in the opposition backlines. But they also play a key role when pressing the ball, as the front three spread and hassle the opposition very high up the pitch.
It can be a hugely effective tactic, but on the flip-side, they can be a little generous defensively. As of late, Sampaoli has drafted in Cardiff City’s Gary Medel into the centre of defence in an attempt to stem the flow of goals against his.
But if the opposition can’t get the ball off them or struggle to inject any rhythm into their play, it’s very difficult to score. The Chileans need to work on getting that balance right, but if they come up against teams not accustomed to the sweltering conditions then their intense style could see them get to the later stages of the competition.
Their problems are more likely to come against teams from their own continent.
Key Player – Arturo Vidal
There is seemingly nothing this fine, fine midfielder can’t do: His passing is exceptional. His tackling and ability to read the game is outstanding. His work-rate and athleticism is as impressive as anyone in the game. From the penalty spot he has a steely nerve and unwavering composure.
And this season, he’s started to add a regular stream of goals to his game too. Vidal is an inspirational figure for Sampaoli’s team and his teammates in turn will look to him – a player who has won major honours with the Bianconeri – to inspire them to a prosperous tournament on their own continent.