The idea that Chile’s “boys in red” just might manage to make their way to the very end of this year’s competition and be crowned champions is a dream that every Chilean must have experienced yesterday.
“La Roja’s” stock is surely soaring having valiantly knocked Spain — defending world champions — out of the 2014 World Cup with style. The Spaniards were made to look little more than ordinary as Chile’s first eleven worked tirelessly to register a 2-0 triumph — with goals from forward Eduardo Vargas and midfielder, Charles Aránguiz.
This emphatic win has guaranteed Chile’s qualifying position within the final 16, impressively emerging from what was originally dubbed the “Group of Death” — the slogan referring directly to the predicted challenges that 2010 World Cup finalists, Spain and Holland, would present.
Yesterday’s success marked more than just a World Cup win for Jorge Sampaoli’s boys as it was also Chile’s first competitive win over Spain in 11 matches. Added to the previous victory over the Australian “Socceroos,” the score so far is a neat “two for two” — placing Chile in a very favorable position.
The celebration of “La Roja” after the final whistle yesterday was relatively muted given the significance of the result, revealing the growing self-confidence that master tactician, Sampaoli, has been working to instill.
Spain’s starting eleven — blessed with stars such as Sergio Ramos, Diego Costa and Andres Iniesta — was enough to strike fear into any team, but Chile remained composed. In total, Chile has now won four of its last six World Cup games, which no doubt has lots to do with the solid captaincy of Barcelona-bound goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, who demonstrated a fearless approach throughout the entire 96 minutes — including the seamlessly neverending extra-time,
“La Roja’s” talisman and poster boy, Alexis Sanchez, carved out two chances in the opening minutes as the South American’s offensive formation looked to pay dividends early on. Tactically, the team sheet oozed unflinching confidence as Sampaoli implemented three at the back, with wingers Mauricio Isla and Eugenio Mena tearing down the touchline to attack and defend in equal measure.
Both goals were scored in the first half as Chile pressed with power and pace, affording Spain no time on the ball. Vargas evaded the defense to toe-poke in on 19 minutes while Aránguiz made the most of a poor Iker Casillas clearance, whipping in a fine finish with the outside of his right boot.
As ever, Arturo Vidal dictated the midfield with his uncompromising style and was ever willing to track back and cover his defense comprising Gary “The Pitbull” Medel, Gonzalo Jara and Francisco Silva.
The tired and despondent Spanish left the field of play completely dejected knowing that their dominant reign over world football had finally come to an end. Manager Vicente del Bosque’s future looks to be in jeopardy, not to mention the international prospects of Spain’s fading stars — many of whom might not play at a major tournament again.
It is only the fifth time in history that Chile has made it out of its World Cup group, with either Brazil or Croatia set to be “La Roja’s” next obstacle. The hope is that, after demonstrating such strength and skill in the first round, both players and fans will find a way of tapping into that confidence to continue sailing through the next few matches and into the quarter finals.