“Chi-chi-chi / le-le-le / viva Chile.” Clamoring voices, frenetic drumming, beeping car-horns and a seemingly endless array of soccer chants about Chile; this was the sound of Wednesday night as ebullient fans across the 2600 mile length of the country took to the streets to celebrate the national team’s qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
A few hours earlier, as Chile lined up to face the formidable Ecuador in the final round of qualification in Santiago, spirits were already high among both hosts and visitors alike.
Both teams went into the match with good prospects of automatic qualification, in fact a draw would have sealed the deal for both squads, so you could be forgiven for thinking Chile would rest on its laurels and take the easy road.
To the delight of fans, Chile showed the same attacking flair that has captivated audiences across the world in recent years in Wednesday’s match creating a raft of opportunities from the first whistle.
Star striker Alexis Sánchez was the first to get on the scoreboard leaping above his marker to head home Chile’s first goal. A second came soon after as Cardiff City’s Gary Medel slotted home an easy finish from a Sánchez assist. While Ecuador came back into the game in the second half Chile was able to hold on to a victory, sailing in to the World Cup finals and, quite possibly, the hearts of aficionados of dynamic, attacking soccer worldwide.
BBC sports pundit Tim Vickery is one such zealous convert. “Full of pace, movement and attacking intent, Chile are a delight to watch,” wrote the British sports writer last month in an article suggesting the South American team should be a favorite among neutrals during the big tournament next year.
Understandably, his high praise is mirrored by those in the squad responsible for getting Chile’s heart racing. Speaking to press after Wednesday’s triumph, Sanchéz was adamant that this year’s qualifying success is just the beginning; the big prize is next summer’s World Cup.
“It does not stop here,” the Barcelona striker said. “We want to be champions in Brazil.”