The Chosen 23: Player Profiles

ChileJorge Sampaoli finally released the last two players from his initial 30-man preliminary squad earlier this afternoon, confirming the 23 players who will make up Chile’s World Cup squad.

Marcos González and Rodrgio Millar were the last two players to be let go, joining Enzo Andía, Gustavo Canales, Paulo Garcés, Pablo Hernández and Matías Fernández.

While cases could be made for most it is probably Gonzalez’s omission which is most controversial considering he was the one defender available to Sampaoli who had height on his side. Although he has only played one game this year it was thought that his 6ft 2” frame would ultimately secure his place. His absence leaves José Rojas as the only recognised centre-back in the 23-man squad.

However, there is an abundance of quality throughout the squad with Claudio Bravo proclaiming that this squad is better than the one which travelled to South Africa four years ago. So who are the players who will go up against Australia, Spain and the Netherlands in Group B?

Porteros

Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad), 31, 79 caps

BravoChile’s undisputed number one goalkeeper, Bravo plays a pivotal role in Chile’s gameplan. The Real Sociedad keeper is comfortable away from his line which makes him the ideal stopper to play behind the team’s high line. As well as being an efficient sweeper Bravo is proficient with the ball at his feet and is rarely flushed when faced with pressure. Capable of making jaw-dropping saves, Bravo does have a mistake in him and is at times uncertain when coming for crosses, which won’t help a team short on height. He has a huge influence off the field and is the country’s second-most capped player – he could equal or break the record set by Leonel Sanchez if La Roja make the last-16 or quarter-finals.

Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile), 33, seven caps

HerreraThe most controversial player in the squad. And this being Chile that is saying something. The 31-year-old has had his off-field problems. In 2009 he was arrested following a fatal accident having been speeding under the influence of alcohol. Two years ago he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. But a decision to give him a suspended sentence means he is able to go to the World Cup. He has also been embroiled in a number of rows from previous coach Claudio Borghi to fans of Universidad de Chile. He is a more than able deputy for Bravo; one of the best goalkeepers in South America he is a an excellent shot stopper, possessing a commanding presence and comfortable with the ball at his feet.

Cristopher Toselli (Universidad Catolica), 25, four caps

ToselliBrazil’s Hulk won’t be the only Hulk at the World Cup. Toselli is known at Universidad Católica by the the same moniker. Having played prominent part in the teams which performed so well at the Under-20 World Cup in Canada in 2007 and at the Toulon Tournament in 2009, Toselli was included in the preliminary squad for the World Cup four years ago before being cut. However, he is seen as the long term successor to Claudio Bravo. He continues to perform at a consistently excellent level for Católica, possessing superb reflexes and agility. He is prone to a spectacular save with the only real chink in his armour being his command of the box – more than once he has been left to look silly when attempting to claim a cross.

Defensas

José Rojas (Universidad de Chile), 30, 18 caps

RojasCaptain of Universidad de Chile under Jorge Sampaoli, the veteran, who will turn 31 on the day of the Netherlands game, was a likely starter once Sampaoli took over from Claudio Borghi. However, injuries and a slip in standards make it more likely he will be a squad player than a key defender. However, Rojas has a lot to offer with a good amount of recovery pace despite being the wrong side of 30, plus the knowledge of having played under Sampaoli and in a defence which takes risks high up the park. Rojas isn’t the tallest but is determined and aggressive, plus he has supreme confidence in his ability which can sometimes lead to conceding possession in dangerous areas.

Gary Medel, (Cardiff City), 26, 60 caps

MedelOne of the most loved players in the country. Medel has garra in abundance, a quality he mixes with an excellent football ability. Ferocious and tenacious, he has taken those qualities with him into the centre of defence without the recklessness which he is infamous for (just ask this chair). La Roja are blessed with midfield options while Medel has had experience of playing at the back, providing the team with another competent passer. Medel is a certainty either in a back three or back four with the only attribute he is missing is height which he makes up for with an excellent spring.

Gonzalo Jara (Nottingham Forest), 28, 65 caps

JaraThe Nottingham Forest man has had his moments. There has been games where he has looked out of his depth – you only had to watch Chile’s recent friendly against Egypt – followed by games where he looks a natural centre-back. His versatility across the backline in a back three or four makes him a valuable member of the squad. Similar to Medel his aggression and mobility make him suited to a defensive role in the team but again he isn’t the tallest. While Medel is familiar with moments of madness, Jara is familiar with moments of incompetency, but seems to grow when pulling on the red of his country.

Miiko Albornoz (Malmo), 23, two caps

AlbornozAlbornoz used his call-up to the squad, which largely featured domestic-based players, for the Costa Rica friendly earlier this year to impress the coaches – making a scoring debut. Born in Sweden and having represented his country of birth at under-17, 19 and 21 level, the 23-year-old qualifies for Chile through his father. Originally seen as a player for the future – next year’s Copa America – Albornoz dazzled in the training camp before the final 23 was announced. Although not fluent in Spanish he understands Sampaoli’s vision, while excelling in the physical side of the game, which is important for how Chile play. Albornoz gives the squad extra versatility, able to cover for both Mauricio Isla and Eugenio Mena as well as proving himself capable as a centre back in training although his performance against Egypt in the position left a lot to be desired. He is tactically adept and he is a good passer of the ball. He is attracting interest from across Europe.

Volantes

Marcelo Díaz (Basel), 27, 20 caps

DiazThe midfield general, the cog, the metronome, La Roja’s Andrea Pirlo. In most reviews he won’t be mentioned as the key man with Alexis Sánchez and Arturo Vidal around but Sampaoli won’t want to lose the man who transfers Sampaoli’s ideas onto the pitch. Stop Díaz and teams may have their best chance of stopping Chile. He will set the tone and rhythm for how Chile play, knowing when to speed up or slow down the play and whether to go short or long. He plays in a more advanced role for club side Basel but when Chile attack he will at times become a third centre back when La Roja play with a back four. He is a modern midfield player who knows his angles and keeps possession. His importance is highlighted in Chile’s results without him having only been part of one defeat under Sampaoli when he had to leave the pitch early due to injury.

Charles Aránguiz (Internacional), 25, 20 caps

AranguizEl Príncipe is another whose career blossomed under Sampaoli at Universidad de Chile. Díaz’s partner in crime in the La U midfield. While Díaz controlled, Prince Charles brought a sense of anarchy to the midfield with his dynamism and indefatigable running. He will do the same for Chile and is likely to start in the midfield, whether as a replacement for Vidal if he succumbs to injury or beside him. He can play a more measured game if necessary but is at his best on the front foot both with and without the ball. Will run himself into the ground pressing and harrying the opposition, while still being capable of firing in a spectacular goal. His experience of playing in Brazil with Internacional (on loan from Udinese) will be a benefit to the team.

Arturo Vidal (Juventus), 27, 53 caps

VidalRemember Aldo Duscher? Remember David Beckham? Remember that metatarsal? England went hysterical as Goldenballs was in danger of missing the 2002 World Cup because of the Argentine’s challenge. There has been similar furore in Chile regarding Vidal and his injury to his right knee, with the Juventus man having surgery to alleviate his meniscus problem earlier this month. It is expected that he will miss the first game against Australia. He is arguably the best all-round midfielder in the world so the concern is understandable. He provides La Roja with a bit of everything in midfield: dynamism, pressing, goals, an aerial presence in both boxes, forward runs. He is a jack-of-all-trades. And unlike many who are master of none, he is a master of most. A formidable player whose fitness could depend on where Chile finish in the group and how far they go.

Eugenio Mena (Santos), 25, 24 caps

MenaAlong with Marcelo Díaz, probably the most underrated player in the squad. Mena excelled as a left wing-back in La U’s dominant period in which they claimed three league titles and a Copa Sudamericana. He is, like Isla on the right, a one-man flank. Can seamlessly fit into a back four or further up the pitch. He is one of the most serene players in the squad but relentless up and down the left. Another who is suited to the way Sampaoli wants to play; excellent in the tackle, he has pace to recover and his forward continued forward bursts offer penetration when forwards make diagonal runs inside. Could thrive on Jorge Valdivia’s through balls.

Mauricio Isla (Juventus), 25, 46 caps

IslaEugenio Mena’s qualities could easily be copied and pasted into here. What the Santos wide man offers on the left, Isla offers on the right. Playing second fiddle to Stpehen Lichsteiner at Juventus, Isla is a first choice and everything Sampaoli wants in a full/wing-back. He has shown signs of creating a similar relationship with Eduardo Vargas, like the Valencia man did with Matías Rodríguez. Vargas would often start wide before moving inside to create space for the wing-back. Isla with his constant runs will look to take advantage. Will need to make better use of the ball than he did for Juventus in the Europa League and improve on his recent friendly appearance for La Roja. He will also look to link with Charles Aránguiz who favours runs to the right.

Jean Beausejour (Wigan Athletic), 30, 59 caps

BeausejourOne of the least technical players in the squad, but even going back to the 2010 World Cup he has been an important member of the squad. Another who can play in two or three positions, Beausejour can at times seem like he is struggling to keep up with the high-tempo nature of the team’s game but he offers physicality, powerful running with the ball and a dangerous cross. He will unlikely start with Mena primed for a left-hand side position but expect him to be an important asset used by Sampaoli from the bench.

Francisco Silva (Osasuna), 28, 11 caps

SilvaThe moment El Gato Silva played his way into the squad for the World Cup was the friendly against Germany. With Marcelo Díaz missing he was ushered into an unfamiliar libero role, moving freely between defence and midfield, prompting attacks from the back, while providing crucial defensive cover. In a survey as to which players to leave behind the ex-Universidad Católica man featured highly but he is a competent passer and aggressive. Better footballers could have been Díaz’s replacement, such as Jaime Valdés and David Pizarro, but Silva has been giving the nod for his other qualities – there would be no surprise if he lined up in defence at any point.

Carlos Carmona (Atalanta), 27, 43 caps

CarmonaAnother squad player who Sampaoli has taken a shine to. The Atalanta man was part of the squad which travelled to South Africa and has made a name for himself at the Italian side where he as played more than 100 league games for the Bergamo side. He is not a goalscoring midfielder with only one goal from his 42 caps but he does provide safety and solidity in midfield. He is another who can combine aggression and a physical presence with fine footballing skills. Unlikely to be a starter but will be a likely presence from the bench.

Felipe Gutiérrez (FC Twente), 23, 17 caps

GutierrezGutiérrez took a big step forward to securing his place in the squad following the Germany friendly where he put in a more than adequate performance in a deeper role in midfield than he is used to. The FC Twente midfielder was seen as one of the best players for his club in the season just past. A highly technical player he can play in any position in the line behind the striker, while he was stationed deeper in the absence of Marcelo Díaz against Germany. His comfort in possession and his fine passing meant he didn’t look out of place although he lacked a sense of verve in the friendly with Egypt. Likely to be a key squad figure with his adaptability.

José Pedro Fuenzalida (Colo Colo), 29, 23 caps

FuenzalidaWith the presence of Albornoz, his capability of playing on both flanks and the praise he was receiving it seemed that Fuenzalida would be one of the players cut. However, a poor performance from Mauricio Isla against Egypt saw the Colo Colo man take to the field and impress with his energy and positivity. Fuenzalida can play anywhere on the right side and has been Colo Colo’s most consistent player in recent league campaigns. A reliable and industrious performer, he won’t let Sampaoli down and has a knack for ghosting into positions at both ends of the pitch.

Delanteros

Jorge Valdivia (Palmeiras), 30, 56 caps

ValdiviaBrought back into the national team following the arrival of Jorge Sampaoli and he has been looked after to ensure that injuries are kept to a minimum. Off field problems have also hampered his career but on his day he is a magician as can be gleamed from his El Mago moniker. With no standout number nine Sampaoli formulated a plan to get the most out of his three most talented attackers which meant Valdivia playing higher up the pitch with freedom to roam. He put in some excellent performances during qualifying with opposition defenders in a daze trying to pin him down. His penetrating passes will have no shortage of suitors with both wing-backs, both forwards and a couple of midfielders likely to be eager recipients.

Eduardo Vargas (Valencia), 24, 29 caps

VargasSince being awarded best player and finishing top goal scorer in the 2011 Copa Sudamericana, earning himself an £11.8m move to Serie A with Napoli, the 24-year-old has embarked on a nomadic career with the Italians, Gremio in Brazil and now Valencia. However, once Sampaoli took over the Chilean national team he has looked most comfortable wearing the red of Chile. Whatever the formation he will likely start as a forward. Like most at La U under Sampaoli, he is quick and mobile and can run all day. He will look to use that pace to burst into space in the box to get on the end of low crosses or run onto through balls. He made the run to the front post a trademark of his time in Santiago. Not a natural finisher but his agility makes him a goal threat. After his brace against Egypt he has now scored 11 goals in 14 games for La Roja under Sampaoli.

Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona), 25, 66 caps

SanchezMore creative and nimble than Eduardo Vargas, Sánchez is Chile’s main attacking threat. However, that responsibility can sometimes go to his head as he looks to do it all himself and conjure up a bit of magic. He can twists defenders arteries inside out with his turns and close dribbling. If Chile can keep him nearer the goal and allow players such as Jorge Valdivia to feed him he could be an outside bet for top scorer of the tournament considering the amount of times Chile will get the ball in dangerous areas. Although with Valdivia not a certain starter in every game, he demonstrated that he was able to fill the creative void in the Egypt game with three superb assists, two of which came from deeper positions.

Fabián Orellana (Celta Vigo), 28, 25 caps

OrellanaSuch was Orellana’s position at Celta Vigo under Luis Enrique not that long ago that Colo Colo had hoped to entice the player back to Chile. But the 28-year-old was confident in his ability to stick around and work his way into the team. He did just that becoming an important player as the Gallicians rose up La Liga away from the relegation zone. With 33 games and five goals he comes into the squad on a high and will provide a quality back-up to Sánchez and Vargas. He is quick, a confident dribbler and from the wing can attack the space Valdivia will hopefully create. Playing in La Liga and having been part of the 2010 World Cup squad Orellana adds big game experience to the squad.

Mauricio Pinilla (Cagliari), 30, 26 caps

PinillaSampaoli has recognised that the best team available to him doesn’t require a number 9. However, finding the right one to come as back-up to allow him to change the game plan was a crucial and it is the Cagliari hitman appears to be first choice striker from the bench. Due to a number of issues, off field and injury related, Pinilla’s continuity in the Chile squad has been erratic at best and this will be the last chance for one of the most talented players of is generation to represent Chile at the World Cup. Sampaoli has been impressed with what he can offer and his work in training. Arguably the most dangerous player in the air for Chile, Pinigol has strength in abundance and is comfortable with his back to goal.

Esteban Paredes (Colo Colo), 33, 34 caps

ParedesIt hasn’t been easy for the Colo Colo marksman to find his way into the squad. After getting his first cap for more than a year in La Roja’s 2-0 qualification win over Uruguay in March 2013 where he scored, he only played in three more games in little more than a year. However, injuries and good form for Los Albos sees him head to Brazil. He is a different number nine to the likes of Gustavo Canales and Mauricio Pinilla; he is not dominant in the air but his skills lie in his movement, his control and his predatory instincts, which have unfortunately let him down before when wearing the national team strip. His inclusion from the bench wouldn’t see a drastic change in style, he would fit into the fluid workings of the team.

Director Técnico

Jorge Sampaoli, 54

SampaoliA most interesting character. An injury hampered his football career so the Argentine undertook a long journey to become the manager he is today. From listening to tapes of Marcelo Bielsa when out running to managing from a tree, Sampaoli has travelled through South America with varying success but he is best known for the success and football which he brought to Universidad de Chile, delivering three consecutive league titles and the club’s first continental title – the 2011 Copa Sudamericana. To find out more read this and this.

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