Chile Camp Focus – Bielsa’s men not quite hot enough to overcome last 16 hurdle

The curtains on Chile’s South Africa World Cup were drawn to a close yesterday after a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil in the Last 16. Coach Marcelo Bielsa admitted after the match that his side lacked the flavour to beat their South American counterparts: “I had hoped we would have got closer to Brazil, it wasn’t such a one-way match. We had some good chances coming down the right side, but we lacked the necessary punch to convert dangerous situations into goals.”

The game was brought under control by the Brazilians in the final 10 minutes of the first half with two goals from Juan and Luis Fabiano. The bane of Chiles’s existence proved to be Robinho, who provided the final nail in the coffin in the second half; his curling shot past the reach of Claudio Bravo was his eighth goal from six matches against Chile.

Brazil had the greater goal threat from the first whistle but took 34 minutes to break down Chile, who played in an all white strip. Maicon’s perfectly weighted cross into the box was met by the head of Juan who made no mistake in burying the ball high into the back of the net past a helpless Bravo. Brazil took just four minutes to double their scoring with a swift counter-attack before Fabiano rounded the goalkeeper and slotted home for what was his third goal of the tournament. Chile’s star striker Humberto Suazo made only his second start of the competition, but failed to have the same potency he showed throughout qualifying. Indeed, Chile’s best opportunity of the first half fell to Suazo, but his shot from the edge of the box failed to struggle Julio Cesar between the posts. The five-times world champions scored their third and final goal on the hour mark when Ramires rounded two players to put through Robinho, who had the skill to curl the controversial Jabulani ball in his favour and beyond the reach of the Chile captain.

Bielsa began the match with four changes to the side he started with against Spain, three of those forced upon by the suspensions of Marco Estrada, Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce. The Argentine later admitted that, player for player, his side were outshone by a Brazilian master class: “The last half an hour we were able to work well, but it was shown today the gaps between the smaller and bigger teams do exist. Chile played well, but Brazil managed to score on every third attack and it is hard to cope with that.” Brazil’s win sets the stage for what promises to be a scintillating quarter-final dual against a formidable Dutch outfit in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

“Chile proved they’re a team that try and play football, even when they come up against Brazil. That’s why we sometimes had space to show just how strong we are on the counter-attack,” said Kaka after yesterday’s match. Marcelo Bielsa is considered one of the most attack-minded Coaches in the business and maybe his concerns going forward should have been better balanced with commitments in defence. La Roja impressed in qualifying and showed what a dangerous side they are in attack. Yet their defensive ethos, or lack of, cost them dearly in the end. Two of the three goals scored by the Brazilians yesterday came on the break. Switzerland and Honduras were not able to exploit their Achilles Heel, but with the likes of Fabiano and Robinho in the attacking arsenal of a well-practiced Brazil side, it becomes clear what must be done before Chile can join the big fish of the world stage. Chilean captain Bravo concluded: “We’re a young team, one of the youngest at this World Cup. At competitions to come I think we’ll iron out a few flaws, such as how we defend.”

In the wake of defeat, Marcelo Bielsa has said now is not the time to decide his future after nearly three years in charge. Despite a disappointing score line yesterday, he led Chile to the World Cup Finals for the first time since France 1998 and guided them to their first victory in the tournament for 48 years when they beat Honduras. He has constructed a youthful but formidable squad and with time they can only get stronger. If he chooses to leave, his legacy lives on in the players.

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