World Cup 2014 Group B – Chile

Outright odds: 50/1

To win group: 4/1

To qualify: 19/20

 

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

 

Manager: Jorge Sampaoli

 

World Cup record: Third (1962, as hosts), round of 16 (1998, 2010)

 

Chile’s World Cup record is one of underachievement for some – they have gone past the last 16 just once, when they hosted the tournament in 1962, but even with a nightmare draw Jorge Sampoli’s side can have some sort of confidence about making a big run into the tournament.

 

 

Chile came to prominence for many when beating England in a friendly at Wembley in fine style last November, outplaying them for a 2-0 triumph in London, while they were also impressive when drawing praise from Joachim Low in playing the same attractive, high tempo brand of football which they have put in place since the arrival of the new man, and their wualifying was also impressive.

 

 

In third place for the CONEMBOL qualifying section, Chile finished behind only Argentina and Colombia and while some lax defending cost them goals – they let in 25 – they scored 29, a total bettered by only Argentina.

 

 

The superb key trio that scored 14 of their goals in qualifying heads their bold policy, and arguably the shining start of them is forward Alexis Sanchez. Having taken time to find his feet at Barcelona following his move from Udinese, he has had his finest season yet, scoring 19 goals in 34 appearances, adding to that with 10 assists, and genuinely being a bright spot for the Catalans in a season that ended with no trophies. His 5 goals in qualifying also provide crucial and he could well be the main threat.

 

Backing him up as striker is likely to be Eduardo Vargas, who lit up the Copa Sudamericana three years ago – his 11 goals are still the most in the tournament’s history, and he was second only to Neymar in the voting for South American player of the year – and who has retained a high level of international performance even when struggling in Europe, being moved from Napoli to Femoli and then Valencia, when he has performed well on both fronts after being away from Italy – Vargas had nine goals in 12 matches for his country in 2013, and broke a Chile record for scoring in six consecutive matches.

 

 

Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal has been one of the key parts of the side that has turned Serie A into a procession over the last 2 years, scoring 11 goals and providing 5 assists this season and also scoring 5 goals in qualifying to take them through in the group. If he is fit following a knee operation – he may not be needed for the first game against Australia – then he could light up this group.

 

 

Defence, with 25 goals let in during qualifying, is the big worry. Gary Medel did not impress for Cardiff and him keeping a lead on his temper is likely to be crucial while Marcos Goanzalez’s lack of competitive action is a worrying factor, but Chile’s own results prove that they have more than enough talent to compensate going forward and they are a threat to all.

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