Chile could be a World Cup dark horse


Jack Wilshere, left, in action for England. (Alastair Grant/AP)

Chile isn’t going to win the World Cup. But they will be loads of fun to watch, thanks to an aggressive (some would say cavalier) attacking style of play. Chile doesn’t mind giving up two goals, because they’re capable of scoring three. In the World Cup, though, there is little room for error. They need to a find the proper balance between defending and attacking.


Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile), Cristopher Toselli (Universidad Catolica)
Defenders: Gary Medel (Cardiff City), Jose Rojas (Universidad de Chile), Eugenio Mena (Santos), Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest)
Midfielders: Arturo Vidal (Juventus), Mauricio Isla (Juventus), Marcelo Diaz (Basel), Francisco Silva (Osasuna), Felipe Gutierrez (FC Twente), Jose Pedro Fuenzalida (Colo Colo), Carlos Carmona (Atalanta), Jean Beausejour (Wigan Athletic), Charles Aranguiz (Internacional), Miiko Albornoz (Malmo)
Forwards: Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona), Eduardo Vargas (Valencia), Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras), Mauricio Pinilla (Cagliari), Esteban Paredes (Colo Colo), Fabian Orellana (Celta Vigo)


Jorge Sampaoli is a disciple of fellow Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, so it should come as no surprise that he preaches all-out attack style predicated on high-pressing and speed. He revitalized Chile in 2012, taking over while the team was in qualifying peril.

Possible formation

4-3-1-2: (GK) Bravo – (D) Isla, Medel, Gonzalez, Mena – (M) Vidal, Diaz, Valdivia, Beausejour – (F) Sanchez, Vargas

Group B schedule

June 13: vs. Australia in Cuiaba
June 18: vs. Spain in Rio
June 23: vs. the Netherlands in Sao Paulo

How they qualified

Chile kept things interesting through the length of CONMEBOL qualifying, never getting comfortably high in the standings and only finally securing a direct route to Brazil on the last matchday.

Team strengths

Scoring depth. Chile had the second-most goals scored in South American qualifying (behind Argentina) and they did it with 13 goal scorers—more than any other CONMEBOL country. Having such a multi-headed threat in attack will serve La Roja well in Brazil.

Team weaknesses

Defending. For all their potency up front, Chile has been woeful at the back, conceding 25 goals in qualifying—tied for worst amongst South American qualifiers. Sampaoli is a tactically rigid coach who only knows one way—all-out attack at all times.

Players to watch

Arturo Vidal: An all-energy, two-way central midfielder who can score goals, create and help out the defence. Technically gifted, and a physical presence.
Claudio Bravo: Team captain, he’s been Chile’s No. 1 goalkeeper for close to a decade. Athletic and strong, and he likes to launch attacks from the back.
Alexis Sanchez: The FC Barcelona forward is capable of mazy runs, and is a lethal goal scorer. Can lead the line, or on the right in a supporting role.

Burning question?

Will Chile play “smart”? Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valour and you have to play defensively in order to kill off opponents. That lesson seems to be lost on Chile, who always want to attack, even when the situation in the game calls for a more measured and defensive approach.

Prospects in Brazil

On the one hand, Chile is being touted as a dark horse who could go on a lengthy run. On the other hand, there are lingering questions about their depth and defence. They also have a difficult group with Spain and the Netherlands, and will battle it out for a top two spot. Another second-round appearance—and possible a spot in the quarterfinals—seems to be in the cards, assuming they get out of this difficult group.

World Cup history

Set to appear in its ninth World Cup, Chile has historically never escaped from the foreboding shadow cast by South American rivals Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. A semifinal appearance in 1962 was achieved on home soil, but the Chileans have never made it beyond the round of 16 since, and they’ve become defined by their early exits from the tournament.

• 1930—First round
• 1934 and 1938—Withdrew
• 1950—First round
• 1954 and 1958—Did not qualify
• 1962—Semifinals (third place)
• 1966—First round
• 1970—Did not qualify
• 1974—First round
• 1978—Did not qualify
• 1982—First round
• 1986—Did not qualify
• 1990—Disqualified
• 1994—Banned
• 1998—Second round
• 2002 and 2006—Did not qualify
• 2010—Second round

Algeria || Argentina || Australia || Belgium || Bosnia and Herzegovina || Brazil || Cameroon || Chile || Colombia || Costa Rica || Croatia || Ecuador || England || France || Germany || Ghana || Greece || Holland || Honduras || Iran || Italy || Ivory Coast || Japan || Mexico || Nigeria || Portugal || Russia || South Korea || Spain || Switzerland || Uruguay || United States

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