Julian Boland offers a passionate preview of what we can expect from an exciting Chile team at this month's World Cup.
Although coveted and his Barcelona future up in the air, Alexis Sanchez will have another thing on his mind at the moment, being the jockey of the Darkhorse that is Chile this summer in Brazil.
When Chile and Alexis Sanchez kick off their World Cup with a match against a struggling Australia side, they'll have the pleasure of small expectations. Most people have the two finalists of the last World Cup as the teams to advance from Group B, but Chile, spearheaded by Sanchez, have a chance to advance and set Brazil on fire.
Jorge Sampaoli, the Chile manager, is a true descendent of previous boss Marcelo Biesla. Biesla played attractive attacking football four years ago in South Africa, and Sampaoli has continued to delight fans. The boss plays a high tempo game where his side go all out to attack when in possession. When without the ball they press defenders and harass opposing players like wasps. Players such as Alexis Sanchez have thrived under him, becoming a talisman of his national side.
In one of Chile's last international matches, the South American's traveled to Stuttgart to face Germany in a friendly. The match ended 1-0 with victory to the Germans, but the scoreline didn't reflect the run of play. Chile and Sanchez opened up Germany's defence and caused them many problems throughout the night.
Alexis was the Roadrunner, leaving the Wile E. Coyote German defenders in his dust. No German player could match him for speed, or match most of the Chile team in general. The Chileans exploited their pace as they attacked the Germans from all angles. Alexis ghosted in behind the German defence multiple times, performing non-stop harassment.
The other notable stars that will be key to Chile and the ones that also caused the Germans problems were Eduardo Vargas and Arturo Vidal. Vargas like Sanchez, can buzz straight past defenders like a hornet and can be deployed centrally or on the wings. Vidal, arguably the best box-to-box midfielder in the world, never gives up until every blade of grass is covered and has a killer instinct in the attacking third.
This Chile team will hurt Australia, Netherlands and Spain when they run at their defences, spread the ball wide and players like Sanchez run in behind the opposition’s defence.
The width of the pitch will be extremely vital for Chile. Vargas and Sanchez on opposite touchlines will fly past defenders. They can also switch their positions repeatedly, leaving their markers dazed and confused.
Together the lethal linkup and chemistry of the Chile team will be their most effective weapon. With the understanding they displayed throughout the qualifying rounds and against Germany, they can act as a naval ship that can destroy anyone.
The defence of Chile is though a weak point. Two important cogs in their defensive machine will be Marcelo Diaz and Gary Medel. Marcelo Diaz acts as a screener to the defence, reading the game and closing down space. The main defender for Chile is Gary Medel. Medel isn't afraid to get physical with opposing attackers, but has good discipline. He can read the game like a book and make crucial interceptions and tackles when it counts. Diaz and Medel act as the armour around the Achilles heel of this Chile side and will be just as key as the attackers.
With a team full of enthusiasm and a point to prove, along with players that perform on the international stage like Alexis Sanchez, Chile can go toe-to-toe with the big boys in the World Cup. In Brazil they will open the eyes of the world and capture the hearts of fans if they play like they have under Jorge Sampaoli in previous matches.
Spain and Netherlands beware.