Copa America 2015: Chile squad preview – Part 2, The Depth


While the strength of Chilean’s key players is not in doubt, the depth of their squad is an issue. Few of their other players play at a high league level and they will need to rise to the occasion.

The Forwards

It’s a sign of the uneven quality of this Chilean squad that alongside Alexis Sanchez, star player for Arsenal, the normal choice is Eduardo Vargas, bit-part player for relegated QPR, on loan from Napoli. That’s a bit misleading as his record for Chile is pretty impressive, with 18 goals in 39 appearances, perhaps helped by the quality of his partner. He can be a good poacher, but has played very little this season.

The 21 year-old Angelo Henriquez (Dinamo Zagreb, on loan from Manchester United), might feel he deserves a shot, having scored 21 goals in the Croatian league this season and is tipped as one of the young players to watch in the tournament.

Other options include Mauricio Pinilla (Atalanta), whose shot hit the crossbar against Brazil in the final minutes of their match in the 2014 World Cup, which remains his most memorable moment with the team. His 1.85m height offers a different option.  José Pedro Fuenzalida (Boca Juniors) is firmly the fifth choice of the out and out strikers.

In an interesting move, Jean Beausejour (Colo-Colo), who Birmingham and Wigan fans may vaguely remember,  seems set to come up from his normal left wing-back or left wing position to be a wide attacker. He scored in the last two World Cups and would stretch opposition defences.

The Midfield

There’s a number of options fill out the Chilean midfield alongside Vidal and Valdivia. Marcelo Diaz (Hamburg) has been one of Sampaoli´s favourites since playing under him at Universidad de Chile as a deep-lying midfielder who rotates possession well, but he has suffered from an injury this season and may find his place threatened. His surprise replacement could be David Pizarro (Fiorentina), who last played in a Copa America in 1999, and refused to be in the national side for 8 years. The 35 year-old would be a steadying defensive influence, distributing from the base of midfield.

Charles Aranguiz (Internacional) is a regular in the side, another of Sampaoli’s old Universidad de Chile players, an intermittently classy left-footer who can score goals from midfield and plays his part in their relentless pressing.

With Chile likely to play only three central midfielders in 4-3-3 or a 3-5-2, Felipe Gutierrez (FC Twente) and Matias Fernandez (Fiorentina) are unlikely to get a look-in.

The Defence

Herein lies Chile’s big problem, a lack of top-class defenders. Mauricio Isla is another QPR player who failed to shine on loan from Juventus. With Chile he often gets to play his preferred right wing-back position where he has freedom to attack. When playing as a right-back, his tendency to go forward can be exposed, though he’s a hard-worker.

Gonzalo Jara (Mainz 05) tends to partner Medel in central-defence, where his 1.78m height marginally tops his more famous teammate. However a career that includes recent stints at Brighton & Hove Albion and Nottingham Forest points to his limitations. Eugenio Mena (Cruzeiro) is the preferred option at left-back or sometimes as a left wing-back, and he has the same taste for going forward as Isla on the other side which can create pressure on the central defenders.

The other defenders in the squad are Jorge Rojas (Universidad de Chile) and Miiko Albornoz (Hannover), with back up goalies Paulo Garces (Colo-Colo) and Johnny Herrera (Universidad de Chile).