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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Has Chile run out of luck?

So far the World Cup has been more then surprising; the early exit of the defending champion and runner-up 4 years ago in Italy and France, plus England and USA barely qualifying for the Round of 16. Not the mention our Country’s favourite, Chile, falling short to sending the European champion packing on Friday but the Spaniards had other plans. La Roja went all out trying to snatch the 1st place in group H but in the end the logic was respected and Spain ended up with a 2-1 victory clinching the Group and leaving Chile second.

So far at this World Cup, Chile has delivered according to expectation and beyond. They easily beat Honduras in their 1st game, then they became the first team in 16 years to score against Switzerland at a World cup beaten them 1-0 and they gave a run for their money to the ranked number 2 team in the world; Spain.

Is it all Chile has to offer or they have another trick up their sleeves? Though they came close to nick the top position in their group, we all expected Chile to finish behind Spain to then move into the Round of 16 to face the 5 times champion, their all time nemesis; Brazil.

Head to Head with the Scratch, in 65 games Chile has won 7 games and lost 46. La Roja scored 55 times versus 152 for the Brazilians. Their last encounter at a World Cup was in France 98’ in Round of 16 where Chile lost 4-1. Once again they will meet in the knockout round this time in Johannesburg at the Ellis Park Stadium this Monday.

What are the chances of Chile beating Brazil? They have allowed 7 goals in their last 2 games during the WC qualifying process losing 3-0 and 4-2. So far Chile has shown great offensive power, good control of the ball in the midfield and defensively they have been solid in their first 2 games but against Spain it was a different story.

Up front The Reds have not been able to rely on their best asset; Humberto “Chupete” Suazo. The top scorer of the qualifier was injured during a friendly match 2 weeks before the start of the WC and he has not fully recovered physically and mentally. Though he was on the starting line-up against Switzerland, he was pretty much invisible during the first half and his lack of game time clearly showed a Chupete out of shape with no rhythm. Bielsa took him out after 45 minutes. The problem here is that Chile doesn’t have a natural center striker to replace Suazo. Chile has good wingers in Sanchez, Beausejour, Gonzalez only to name a few but Bielsa clearly misses a goal scorer and the absence of goals in the first 2 games have been proven costly as Spain topped Chile on goal difference in the Group stage. Paredes seems to be an option for now but again Esteban has not played a lot lately and he is not clinical when it comes to score.

In the midfield, Chile has nothing to be shy of; they can compete with any team in the competition. This is their strength. Bielsa will see Matía Fernandez and Carlos Cormona reintegrate the team after being forced to sit out against Spain on accumulation of yellow cards. There is one area on the pitch where doubts remain; the defence.
Not that they have not done well so far, to the contrary, they have been brilliant versus Honduras and Switzerland and solid against Spain allowing only 3 shots on goal with a man short. They are well organised, disciplined and committed to each other. Though they held up with 10 players for more 50 minutes, defensively they committed loads of errors; lost balls and missed passes when pressing by the Spaniards. On a brighter side, Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce have been praised by most football experts and they figure on the list of top 10 best players of this world Cup. This is all great but the heck is that both Ponce and Medel will miss the next match against Brazil due to accumulation of yellow cards. How can Chile hold up players like Kaká, luis Fabiano, Elano or Maicon without their 2 best defenders? That is the question. How will Bielsa compensate his lost?
It is hard to see how the Chileans can get pass the scratch. Let’s hope that this World Cup still has more surprises to offer.

Chile will have to play a perfect game in all areas and score early to put pressure on Dunga’s squad. We have seen so far in South Africa that everything is possible in football; if Slovakia can beat Italy, Serbia upsetting Germany and South Africa dominating France, why not seeing Chile surprising Brazil? Dreaming is free, give it a try!!!!!

Catch all the action on Monday at 14h30 on TVN.

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