By Paolo Serpe
Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia
Qualifying as the third team out of South America behind Argentina and Colombia, Chile has higher expectations to live up to this summer, with a squad full of talent.
Brazil will be the ninth World Cup Chile competes in; their best-ever result came on home soil in 1962 when they finished third.
With world-class talent Alexis Sánchez leading the line in attack, Chile can be confident going forward. Eduardo Vargas has gained some consistency this season in Europe and he’ll need to play at a high level to relieve some of the pressure Sanchez will attract from opposition defenders.
Arturo Vidal is arguably the best midfielder in the world at the moment; he’s a box-to-box player who plays with passion and intensity. He is highly-skilled and capable of scoring goals, while also providing defensive cover at the other end of the field. Having him at his best, controlling Chile’s midfield will be fundamental to their chances.
Gary Medel will be expected to do the dirty work, and it’s what he does best. An aggressive, workman-like player, his role can’t be understated. While talented wingers Matias Fernández, Jean Beausejour and Mauricio Isla will look to attack from wide positions and deliver crosses to the strikers; Chile boasts a very formidable midfield group.
If the veteran David Pizarro makes it into the squad he should be a positive contributor to Chile’s build-up play. As a central midfielder with sublime ball control and vision, coming into the game as a substitute to provide an extra boost of creativity to the side will be a much-needed bonus.
Their weakness is undoubtedly at the back. With a number of defenders playing their domestic soccer in South America, where the tactical organization and commitment to defence is below the standard in Europe, when Chile exits the tournament, it will be because their backline lets them down.
But for Dunlop, the luck of the draw is what will hurt Chile the most. Being grouped with the defending champions, and winners of the last two European Championships, Spain, along with 2010 runners up the Netherlands, will be simply too much for them. Australia is a beatable opponent, but that won’t be enough to take second place in the group.
“They were a lot of people’s dark horses,” he said. “But I think they’ll just be outmatched. Spain and the Netherlands are just too good.”
Reed is waiting to see how Vidal plays after declaring himself the best midfielder in the world, but has doubts about Chile’s defence and attacking support for Sánchez. He thinks it will be very difficult to escape Group B, but gives them a chance to do it.