The Chile Players England Will Need to Be Wary of

Daniel EdwardsFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2013

The Chile Players England Will Need to Be Wary of

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    Even on home turf, England will have to be wary of Chile when the two nations clash in Friday's friendly. The South Americans may not have the same prestige as regional powers Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, but consistently manage to punch above their weight thanks to a heady mix of passion and talent. 

    The Roja had stagnated following Marcelo Bielsa's resignation in 2010, but managed to find their best form once more when El Loco disciple Jorge Sampaoli took over from Claudio Borghi. Sampaoli has reproduced the magic touch he enjoyed at the helm of local giants Universidad de Chile, and ensured that the nation would be going to the World Cup for the second consecutive tournament. 

    With just one defeat in 2013, and nine wins in their last 13 games, the Chileans are once more a force to be reckoned with. The following quintet are just a few of the stars England will have to watch if they are not to be upstaged on home soil.   

Gary Medel

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    Boca Juniors' Bombonera home, one of the most hostile places in the world to play football, is no place for shrinking violets.

    It therefore says something about Gary Medel that even for the fanatics of the Argentine giants he deserves the nickname "Pitbull."

    Now with Cardiff City after a successful spell with Sevilla, Medel is employed in the centre of defence by Sampaoli just as the tough-tackling star was used by Bielsa. Despite his diminutive height (at just 5'7"), Medel is rarely out-matched by even the most physical forward.

    However, his enthusiasm for the game's darker arts often leads him into trouble. 

    If he can stay on the field, Medel's heart and skill will pose a big problem for England's attack.

Charles Aranguiz

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    Following the exit of Claudio Borghi in 2012, Jorge Sampaoli was the logical choice to take over. The Argentine coach had performed miracles with Universidad de Chile, winning three national championships in two years and turning the U into one of South America's strongest sides with a frenetic, attacking style of football. 

    Eight former or current Universidad players are in the squad against England, but only one still plying his trade in Santiago is expected to start. Quite why no European club has swooped in to sign cultured midfielder Charles Aranguiz is a mystery, but their loss is Chile's gain. 

    Calm and assured on the ball with an excellent range of passing, Aranguiz is also a master of the late burst into opposition territory, which makes him a real threat on goal. At just 24, the match against England will be another opportunity for the midfielder to further prove his potential.  

Mauricio Isla

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    The tactics of Sampaoli, just like Marcelo Bielsa, are built around versatility and flexibility in both attack and defence. Even when pinned back in their own half, Chilean defenders are expected to burst forward on the break at the earliest possible opportunity. 

    This system explains why Mauricio Isla, primarily a winger in club football with Juventus, is more likely to line up at right-back on international duty. 

    A solid enough player at the back, Isla shines when he is tearing up the right of the pitch, supporting the likes of Eduardo Vargas out wide to stretch defences.

    With England not exactly renowned for their mobility, players such as the Juventus star could make a big difference on Friday. 

Eduardo Vargas

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    Great things were expected from Eduardo Vargas after moving to Napoli at the start of 2012. The lightning-quick forward had come from setting the all-time top scorer record in the Copa Sudamericana, with his 11 goals steering Universidad de Chile to the title and a first international trophy in their history. 

    Marginalised in Italy, however, it was not until Gremio swooped to take Edu on loan that he began to fire on all cylinders once more. 

    With eight goals, Vargas is Chile's top scorer in 2013, while his five during qualifying (all this year) also set the bar for a Roja player. The striker is revelling in the reunion with former Universidad boss Jorge Sampaoli, and the result has been a glut of goals for the striker. 

Alexis Sanchez

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    Saving one of the best for last, the Nino Maravilla has the ability to take England apart almost single-handedly. Alexis Sanchez may have struggled to convince some observers in Barcelona following his big-money transfer, but with 20 goals in 62 games for the national side, it's clear he has a habit of finding the goal. 

    Playing alongside Edu Vargas up front, Alexis provides a more physical complement to his partner's electric pace, creating a combination that can prove a nightmare for many a defence. 

    The pair hit nine goals between them in World Cup qualifying, and with Sanchez playing better than ever in Catalunya, goals are to be expected.