Chile head into the Copa America 2011 determined not to crash out of the tournament in the quarter-final stage as they did four years ago. In Venezuela 2007, the Chileans were dumped out 6-1 by the eventual winners Brazil in a poor performance from then manager Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
A new revolution has been undertaken at La Roja with Bielsa’s exit and the introduction of Claudio Borghi as new manager. Borghi has inherited a squad full of European talent and within his side, and he holds two of the hottest summer transfer prospects in midfielder Arturo Vidal and playmaker Alexis Sanchez. English fans will be familiar with two names who hold Premier League experience in defender Gonzalo Jara and midfielder Jean Beausejour, who ply their trade at West Brom and Birmingham City respectively.
La Roja have gotten to the final of the Copa America four times, the most recent coming in 1987, but have failed to capture the title on each occasion. Chile are one of the best attacking sides in the competition and use this to bombard their opponent’s defence on any occasion throughout the course of the match. Alexis Sanchez is the key target of Chile’s attack and will be helped by striker Hector Mancilla, who has been brought back into the national setup for the first time in five years after some playing problems and issues at Mexican side Toluca.
Under Marcelo Bielsa, Chile played a 3-3-1-3 formation. A holding midfielder was employed effectively to add support to the three central defenders as the two wing backs bombed forward into the opponent’s half on a regular occasion. Chile’s latest results, a 4-0 drubbing of Estonia and a 2-0 victory over Colombia, saw Coach Claudio Borghi showcase the same philosophy as Bielsa and allowed the side to retain the creativity and freedom that Bielsa had instilled in them.
For a team ranked 27th in the world, Chile have excited in the group stages of the last two major tournaments they have participated in, but Brazil have squashed the dreams of La Roja in both the 2010 World Cup and the 2007 Copa America. If Brazil finished second in their Group B and Chile were to top Group C, then the two sides would draw each other again and Chile would look to overcome the demon of beating the Verde-Amarela.
Chile’s group sees them face a difficult task against Mexico, Peru and World Cup 2010 semi-finalists Uruguay. Peru should not offer much of a challenge, but Mexico and Uruguay could dictate the way the group will finish through their respective striking talents of Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez. Chile will have a tough task to finish in the top two and will have to bring their best attacking football to the competition. Mexico’s problems could stem from the eight players expelled due to a scandal within the national camp and Chile will look to seize upon those issues to gain an opening match victory.
Confidence is high in Borghi’s side and after a successful season for the majority of the squad, there is no fear in the team dubbed ‘El Equipo de Todos’ (Everybody’s Team) and most of South America will be secretly hoping that their second favourite side will progress out of a tough Group C.
One to watch – Arturo Vidal: The 24-year-old was the instigator behind Bayer Leverkusen’s second place finish in the Bundesliga last season and his qualities as a holding midfielder have attracted interest from top sides in England and Spain. He will be the anchor behind Chile’s attacking prowess in the tournament this year.
Contreras – Ponce – Jara
Medel – Vidal – Beausejour
Sanchez – Mancilla – Jimenez