Midfielder set for second appearance in Brazil v Spain
WORLD CUP CHANCES: CHILE
The draw was hardly favourable to Chile, who will have to contend with both finalists from South Africa 2010 in Group B. Those matches against Spain and Holland are ones few will expect the Chileans to take full points from, but that might play into their hands given some of their impressive performances against the big nations of late. Nonetheless, an opening game victory over Australia could prove key for the Chileans as goals from Alexis Sanchez, Jorge Valdivia and Jean Beausejour secured a vital opening group game victory.
Chile drew with Spain in a friendly last year playing with three defenders, and that may be the approach again this time around, to tackle the Spaniards’ dominance of the midfield areas.
GARY AS A BLUEBIRD
One of the key performers in Cardiff City’s season in the Barclays Premier League, Gary Medel gets his second chance of his career to pit his wits against the world’s best as he represents Chile for a second time in a World Cup in Brazil this summer.
Always selected when fit, Medel made the starting eleven in thirty-four of the Bluebirds’ thirty-eight league games in the last campaign. Acquired from Sevilla last summer, City claimed a workhorse in midfield, with the diminutive number eight proving to be the heart of the Bluebirds’ midfield for the majority of the campaign.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Alexis Sanchez, of FC Barcelona, is the most recognisable name in the Chile squad. Sanchez has won league championships with Colo-Colo in his homeland, River Plate in Argentina and more recently with the Catalans, having also experienced Italy and Serie A with Udinese. Scoring goals as well as setting them up, as he did with all of the goals in Chile’s two most recent warm-up matches, is Sanchez’s raison d’être. He will look to link with the likes of Eduardo Vargas up front.
Arturo Vidal is another instantly-recognisable face. The Juventus midfielder has moved forward from defence, where he played in Chile’s highly-successful 2007 under-20 side and was joint top-scorer in Chile’s impressive qualification campaign. Vidal has a similar level of creativity to Alexis Sanchez, but also has plenty to offer on the back foot. Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest) and Jean Beausejour (Wigan Athletic) will also be familiar names to football fans in the UK.
Sampaoli’s Chile were successful in both of their two World Cup warm-up matches in the build-up to last week’s kick-off. It was an exciting affair at Santiago’s Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos as La Roja saw off Egypt 3-2 in front of a 30,000 crowd. Gary Medel played the full ninety as Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez was on hand with the assists for all of Chile’s three strikes, duly converted via Marcelo Diaz and an Eduardo Vargas brace, completing a comeback from an early 2-0 reverse.
Sanchez provided the setups again in the 2-0 win over Northern Ireland in their second warm-up match, with Vargas and Mauricio Pinilla on the scoresheet. Medel, starting at centre-half as he regularly does for his country, was replaced by Pinilla on seventy-seven minutes.
THE COACH: JORGE SAMPAOLI
Winning three league titles and the Copa Sudamericana as boss of Universidad de Chile, Jorge Sampaoli became the national team coach in 2012, with the aim of returning La Roja to the levels reached under Marcelo Bielsa. Bielsa reached the Round of Sixteen with Chile at South Africa 2010, and after a disappointing spell under Claudio Borghi, the side have begun playing attractive attacking football again in time for Brazil.
“We need to show the high level of Chilean footballers,” Sampaoli told last month. “We have built up a strong team that managed to make very good displays, especially collectively, and results. We have to play without fear against the best teams in the world. We must be competitive. Individually, we can’t compete against Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Germany or Italy. But we have players who are playing great in some of the best clubs around Europe.”
THE CHILEAN VIEW
“We’re in a very difficult group, but I have a lot of confidence that Chile will qualify from it. Whatever happens, I think we’ll see a very good Chile side, as in the time of Bielsa. Sampaoli took over at a tough time, but he’s got Chile playing very well; not only qualifying in style, but also winning the respect of Europe in the last few friendlies.” – Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City Manager
CHILE 2014 WORLD CUP SQUAD:
Goalkeepers: Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad), Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile), Cristopher Toselli (Universidad Catolica)
Defenders: Gary Medel (Cardiff City), Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest), Jose Rojas (Universidad de Chile), Eugenio Mena (Santos), Mauricio Isla (Juventus).
Midfielders: 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).
Forwards: Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona), Esteban Paredes (Colo Colo) Eduardo Vargas (Valencia), Jean Beausejour (Wigan Athletic), Mauricio Pinilla (Cagliari), Fabian Orellana (Celta).
June 13 – CHILE 3-1 AUSTRALIA – CUIABA.
June 18 – SPAIN VS CHILE – RIO DE JANEIRO, 8PM GMT – BBC
June 23 – HOLLAND VS CHILE – SAO PAULO, 5PM GMT - ITV
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