Nickname: La Roja
Schedule: June 13 vs. Australia, June 18 vs. Spain, June 23 vs. Netherlands
World Cup History: Semifinals (1962), Round of 16 (1998, 2010)
Rankings: FIFA (13), SPI (5)
Winning Odds: 50-1
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli is an Argentine, who has managed in Peru, Chile and Ecuador. He won three league titles at his last stop, Universidad de Chile. He took over mid-stream through 2014 qualifying, bringing back Marcelo Bielsa’s aggressive style of play. Some may argue he is improving on it.
Qualifying Form: Chile finished third in CONMEBOL qualifying, with 28 points and a +4 goal difference. But it was really two different campaigns. The team languished under Claudio Borghi, losing five of its first nine qualifiers. Once Sampaoli took charge, the team revived. The Chileans went 5-0-1 over the final six matches, outscoring opponents 17-6 and ensuring qualification. Chile also beat England 2-0 and drew Spain and Brazil in friendlies.
Tactics: The Chileans field either a 3-4-1-2 or a 4-3-1-2 depending on the phase of play. Mauricio Isla on the right wing can push forward into midfield or slide back into a traditional back four. They are skillful and press teams hard in their own half. Like a basketball team that runs an effective full court press, they can irritate those far more talented.
Player to Watch: Alexis Sanchez. The 25-year-old winger is lightning quick, powerful and has a tremendous amount of skill. Finally settling in at Barcelona, he had 19 goals and 10 assists in the Premier Liga. He started ahead of Neymar on the final day, with the league title on the line and scored this goal.
Squad: The collective is more important than the whole. The standouts are Sanchez and Juventus’ star midfielder Arturo Vidal, coming off three consecutive Serie A titles. He underwent a knee surgery, but is expected to be fit. Beyond those two stars, continuity will be key. Twelve of the 30-man provision squad played for Sampaoli at club level. Their most prolific striker, Humberto Suazo, will miss the tournament after shoulder surgery. If teams can break through their pressing, the Chileans can be vulnerable at the back (25 goals allowed in qualifying).
Group Outlook: Chile would be an attractive dark horse, but for their group. Spain and the Netherlands will be a tough ask. Earning second place gets them a date with Brazil. That said, they have the climate advantage, being used to playing in South America. Their system can rattle any team. One wouldn’t put an upset or two past them.
Notable WAG: Here is Alexis Sanchez’ girlfriend Michelle Carvalho.
Arbitrary Chilean Power Rankings: 1. Bernardo O’Higgins 2. Pablo Neruda 3. Gabriela Mistral 4. Eliseo Salazar 5. Vanessa Ceruti
[Photos via Getty]
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