As Jean Beausejour followed up Mauricio Pinilla’s parried shot to secure Chile’s 3-1 win over Australia, becoming the first Chilean to score in two World Cups, it signalled further progress for this Chile side as they take to the Maracanã on Wednesday in a game described by Esteban Paredes as “life or death” for Spain.
La Roja came into their World Cup 2014 debut on the back of two unimpressive wins over Egypt and Northern Ireland. Both games were notable for Chile being very un-Chile like in attack – laboured and lethargic and starting slowly.
The come from behind win against Egypt highlighted their defensive deficiencies, while against Northern Ireland they rarely looked troubled but also rarely troubled until the introduction of the big guns from the bench secured the win.
However, in the stifling heat of Cuiabá on Friday night La Roja were back. Back to the electric style of football which has endeared them to football fans the world over. Back for 20 minutes.
A quick gleam at social media and fans were being wowed as Jorge Sampaoli’s side began on the front, the players taking the passion they showed during the national anthem into the opening minutes, forcing Australia back. Under new boss Ange Postecoglu this was unnatural for Australia who, similar to Chile, want to control the game, build from the back and attack with pace. Yet the incessant La Roja pressure and anarchic nature of Chile with and without the ball unsettled them.
As was mentioned in the report on the Germany v Chile friendly, the pre-game formation is simply a base, even a guess. Whether it was 4-3-3 or 4-1-2-1-2 on paper, in reality it was nothing of the sort with Australia finding it difficult to get to grips with the variety of positions Chile’s players were taking up.
With Marcelo Díaz conducting from the base of midfield, while also dropping into the backline, Mauricio Isla and Eugenio Mena sprung forward which in tandem allowed Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sánchez to move infield.
The first goal owed much to the trickery and stubbornness of Sánchez as well as the forward runs of Charles Aránguiz who epitomised the anarchy of Chile’s opening. He pounced on a loose ball before it broke to Sánchez who beat Matthew Ryan with a week shot.
This freedom of movement for the Chile team continued to disorientate Australia’s organisation as Jorge Valdivia was played in with Australia’s backline all at sea and all dragged across to Chile’s right.
It looked like Chile would outdo Holland’s plus four goal difference. But the intensity dropped and Australia got back into the game and started to threaten in ways predicated in the preview of the game. A look at Zonal Marking’s analysis of the game (recommended) will see that Australia, after the 20 minute onslaught, came into the game via their wingers and crossed balls to Tim Cahill. The fomer Everton striker could have helped himself to more than the single goal he scored when he rose above Gary Medel and headed past Claudio Bravo.
When Chile have a drop-off in intensity they resemble a run of the mill side despite the quality they have in abundance. Every Chilean in the crowd and those watching in the packed pubs in the country soon took to their finger nails as the second half ticked by with little incident. In moments such as these Chile need Arturo Vidal, who has become an increasingly prominent figure for Chile in recent months, to shine. But he was clearly not 100 per cent fit, struggling to impose himself on the game with Aranguiz outshining him.
Vidal’s frustration was evident when he was replaced by Felipe Gutiérrez. He shot a look which could kill at Jorge Sampaoli before throwing his toys out the pram and kicking a water bottle. However, in the mixed zone after the game he said he was frustrated with himself.
There is now talk that either he or Aránguiz will make way against Spain as Sampaoli considers switching to a back three – something which worked for Holland. Even though he is least likely to start, Vidal made a pertinent point that Chile will need to play at a high-tempo for longer than the 30 minutes they did against Australia.
Today (Friday) we had a good first half, but after the first half hour we lowered a little in intensity. We must increase the intensity. If we increase those 30 minutes to 70 or 90, we can reach the final.
With steady improvements in each match, La Roja go into the game against Spain on a relative high after the (at times) maligned Jean Beausejour put in a positive performance off the bench, securing the three points and Chile’s first World Cup win by two goals since 1962’s 2-0 defeat of Italy.
While happy with the win, the message was clear from Jorge Sampaoli – “we have to be much better than we were today.”