Our Copa America previews continue with a closer look at Chile.
Chile’s fast-paced and free-flowing attack delighted football fans at the 2010 World Cup. The writing had been on the wall for sometime that la Roja were gearing up for a memorable trip to South Africa. Chile finished just a point shy of Brazil at the conclusion of the 18 game qualification series that included an historical win over Argentina in Santiago. The mastermind behind la Roja’s revival Marcelo Bielsa has since departed and fans of el Equipo de Todos wait to see what results his replacement Claudio Borghi can conjure. A first ever Copa América title would be as good a place as any for Borghi to start.
Momento de gloria
Chile achieved their fourth runners-up finish at the 1987 edition of the Copa América. On route to the final in Buenos Aires’ Estadio Monumental la Roja chalked up a 4-0 drubbing of Brazil in the group stage. A brace apiece from Juan Carlos Letelier and Ivo Basay did the damage that night in Córdoba and condemned the Brazilians to their worst ever Copa América showing. Despite Letelier and Basay outshining other strike partnerships such as Careca and Romario plus Claudio Caniggia and Diego Maradona it was still not enough for Chile to overcome Uruguay in the final.
El director técnico
After playing his football for a decade in Chile the Argentine born Claudio Borghi took joint nationality of his adopted country. Before hanging up his boots Borghi was one the best exponents of the Rabona pass the game has ever seen. Early in his coaching career he landed the top job with Chilean giants Colo Colo and over saw a glorious chapter in their history. El Bichi returned to the land of his birth and upset the odds by leading Argentinos Juniors to the Primera División title. Borghi then made the same switch across Buenos Aires that Diego Maradona had done many moons ago as he joined Boca Juniors. After things went sour for him at la Bombonera the coach was freed up to return to Chile and take charge of the national team. Borghi’s approach is to favour possession football as opposed to Bielsa’s quick transitions up the pitch. Borghi also employs to two out and out strikers where Bielsa only found room for one.
One thing that hasn’t change since the arrival of Borghi is Chile’s captain with goalkeeper Claudio Bravo still trusted with the armband. Bravo stuck with Real Sociedad despite their relegation to Spain’s second tier to play a key role in the club’s return to the top flight. Along the way Bravo upheld that fine tradition of goalscoring South American goalkeepers when he popped home a free-kick at the expense of Gimnàstic de Tarragona.
Alexis Sanchez appears to be the most sought after of all the big money transfer targets being mooted to move in time for next season. Credit must go to Serie A outfit Udinese for the manner in which they have nurtured el Niño Maravilla. After snapping him up as a 16-year-old the Italians loaned him first to Colo Colo and then to River Plate to allow him to develop his game in familiar surroundings. When Sanchez finally did arrive at Udinese he hit the ground running and three seasons later he is among the hottest properties in Europe. His combination of pace and close control have defenders waking up in cold sweat.
Along with Sanchez another of the players Claudio Borghi had on his hands while he was the boss at Colo Colo was Matías Fernández. Matigol was named South American Footballer of the Year in 2006 off the back of his performances for Colo Colo and it seemed a fruitful career in Europe awaited. However, Fernández found his opportunities limited after joining Villarreal and has since moved onto to Sporting in Portugal. Despite a spluttering club career Fernández’s three goals in la Roja’s three Copa América warm-up matches has his nation convinced that the dynamic playmaker is back to his best. Deadly from set-pieces.
Udinese decided snap up Chilean defender Mauricio Isla at the same time as bringing Sanchez over from South America. Isla has proven to be an important piece of the jigsaw for the Italain club with his versatile game allowing him to slot in anywhere across the backline. The 23-year-old and Sanchez are best mates and any club wanting to get ahead in the bidding for the attacker would be well advised to slip in a offer for the defender as well.
Former Liverpool winger Mark González misses out along with Mauricio Pinilla and Felipe Seymour on account of injury. Meanwhile, Borghi wielded the axe on both Fabián Orellana and promising young striker Diego Rubio.
Rumores de transferencia
Arturo Vidal to Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City, Diego Rubio to Manchester United.
Mark González will have to settle for missing out on the Copa América by spending a bit of quality time with his wife Maura Rivera. The couple are the Posh & Becks of Chile. As well as tuning into Mark’s games Maura spends her time presenting on television and campaigning for animal rights.
Síguelo en Twitter
@AlexisS7 - Barcelona se congela, Man City ofrece :/
La opinión experta
La Roja arrives in Argentina with high hopes surrounding the team back home. A recent newspaper poll conducted here had over 35% of the people who voted thinking Chile will at least be in the final. This Copa América is the first big test for our new head coach Claudio Borghi and if he wants to kill all the talk about the great job carried out by his predecessor he needs to prove his own worth. I have no doubt that Borghi was the best coach available to take over after Marcelo Bielsa’s departure because of his knowledge of our squad. He won four titles with Colo Colo and that success was based on many of the players he now has with the national team. The draw has been kind to Chile and sees us playing Peruvian and Mexican teams that have been diminished by injuries and indiscipline. The match with Uruguay will be tough but I think even if we finish first or second in the group we are likely to face Colombia or Paraguay to give us a shot at the semi-finals. The danger will appear for Chile in the last four where we seem set to meet Brazil, the team that have put us out of so many tournaments in the past. Here’s the starting line-up Borghi is looking like using: Bravo, Ponce, Contreras, Jara, Isla, Medel, Vidal, Beausejour, Fernández, Sánchez, Suazo.
Pablo Lonza - La Rompieron Radio
Head coach Claudio Borghi is fed up by all the adulation that is heaped upon Marcelo Bielsa. He will look to emerge from el Loco’s shadow by showing he is just as capable of grooming this group of talented youngsters for glory. A trip to the semi-finals will satisfy the fans back home, even more so if there’s plenty of goals to celebrate.
Chile will make light work of progressing from Group C and have all the ability needed to make it down to the last four. On their last two appearances at the World Cup la Roja have been sent home by Brazil and it will be the same team that waves them off back over the Andes again. Chile to lose the third-place play-off in a Group C rematch against Uruguay.
¿Por qué ser fanático?
With only a thin strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains to play with Chile defies the odds by time and time again bringing great talent to the surface. The nation’s exhaustive search for talent recent led to the first ever FIFA sanctioned match to take place on Easter Island. Under the gaze of the iconic rock faces the Islanders were beaten 4-0 by Colo Colo.
¿Un club en League Two?
A steady stream of young and exciting talent decked out in red makes Chile’s connection to Crewe Alexandra impossible to ignore. La Roja’s very own Alex could soon be gracing the same Premier League grounds which have become home to many out of the Crewe Academy.
Pour out the pisco and pass around the empanadas before hotfooting to the cueca all the way down la Plaza de Armas.
Chile were staring down the barrel at missing out at the 1990 World Cup as they trailed Brazil in the Maracanã by a goal to nil when la Roja’s goalkeeper decided to take matters into his own hands. Roberto Rojas reacted to a flair thrown from the crowd landing a few feet away from him by hurling himself onto the ground. Rojas may have fooled the referee into calling off the fixture but he had not outsmarted the television cameras that clearly showed the missle never touched him. As a result of the incident Chile were banned from competing for a place at the 1994 World Cup and Rojas was given a lifetime ban from the game. In 2001 Rojas’ request for a pardon from FIFA was granted. Good old Sepp!
Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad, SPA), Miguel Pinto (Atlas, MEX), Paulo Garcés (Universidad Católica, CHI).
Defenders: Gonzalo Jara (West Bromwich Albion, ENG), Pablo Contreras (Paok, GRE), Waldo Ponce (Cruz Azul, MEX), Arturo Vidal (Bayer Leverkusen, GER), Mauricio Isla (Udinese, ITA), Gary Medel (Sevilla, SPA).
Midfielders: Marco Estrada (Montpellier, FRA), Rodrigo Millar (Colo Colo, CHI), Carlos Carmona (Atalanta, ITA), Francisco Silva (Universidad Católica, CHI), Gonzalo Fierro (Flamengo, BRA), Matías Fernández (Sporting de Lisboa, POR), Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras, BRA), Luis Jiménez (Cesena, ITA), Jean Beausejour (Birmingham, ENG), Felipe Gutiérrez (Universidad Católica, CHI).
Forwards: Alexis Sánchez (Udinese, ITA), Esteban Paredes (Colo Colo, CHI), Humberto Suazo (Monterrey, MEX), Carlos Muñoz (Santiago Wanderers, CHI).
v Mexico 04/07/2011 21:45 San Juan
v Uruguay 08/07/2011 19:15 Mendoza
v Perú 12/07/2011 19:15 La Plata
FIFA ranking: 27
Odds to win: 11/1
Copa America record: P165 W55 D28 L82 F254 A296
Copa America best: Four-times runners-up
More teams will follow in this daily series. Plus, for more on Copa America 2011, listen to The South American Football Show.