Chile are a quality international football side whose World Cup fate could be determined by the group they have been drawn in.
While that statement is fairly obvious, the Chileans’ progression in Brazil will come down to how they perform against Spain and Holland – the finalists at South Africa 2010.
Unfortunately for Jorge Sampaoli’s dynamic La Roja, they are up against two of the world’s best sides this year, which could see their journey up north cut short.
They are expected to beat Group B’s lowest-ranked side Australia but getting the better of the Spaniards and the Dutch is a completely different task in itself.
Nevertheless, World Cups are designed to see the big boys fall and if there ever was a side to cause an upset or two, the energetic and animated Chileans are that group of players.
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Fixtures: Australia - June 13 (Cuiaba), Spain - June 18 (Rio de Janeiro), Holland - June 23 (Sao Paulo)
Past outings against group opponents: Chile have come up against Australia four times in their history for three wins and a draw. A goalless result was played out at the 1974 World Cup in Germany before Chile won 2-1 in a friendly in 2000.
Chile have never defeated Spain in ten attempts, drawing on just two occasions. The Spanish-speaking pair last met at the 2010 World Cup where the eventual winners of that tournament saluted 2-1 in Pretoria.
La Roja have never played against the Netherlands at senior international level.
World Cup utopia: Progression from group stage would be huge. Anything else a bonus.
Doomsday scenario: Leaving the tournament without a victory.
Qualified by virtue of: Finishing third on the South America’s (CONMEBOL) qualifying table.
Best result at a World Cup: Third place (1962).
All the South American nations will be heavily supported at Brazil 2014 which could aid Chile given that their highest finish in a World Cup was in front of their home supporters.
The climate and conditions will suit Sampaoli’s men who are capable of producing a free-scoring game style when the pressure is limited. A recent friendly win over England at Wembley was exciting while their 1-0 defeat to Germany in Stuttgart in March was also filled with promise.
From an individual viewpoint, Sanchez would arguably fit into any team in the world and their captain Bravo provides vital experience and leadership between the sticks.
The biggest news for Chile leading up to the tournament though will be the fitness of Vidal who has undergone an arthroscopy on his knee. The Juventus ace is expected to be fit for the first group stage game but undergoing surgery so close to the World Cup is certainly not an ideal preparation.
With reigning champions Spain fully expected to win the group, Chile will be the biggest threat to Holland to claim second spot.
Given that Australia are a bit of a bogey team for the Netherlands, the final game between La Roja and the Oranje in Sao Paulo could be a winner-takes-all tie to determine who joins Spain in the Round of 16.
The second half of Chile’s qualifying campaign was impressive as they produced five wins and a draw from their final six fixtures to end up third behind Argentina and Colombia but they will have to be at their absolute best if they want to reach the knockout phase in their ninth World Cup finals appearance.
Prediction: Group stage elimination.
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