Chile found themselves drawn into one of the toughest World Cup groups we'll see in Brazil, as Spain, the Netherlands and Australia await.
Now, at least we know who will comprise the squad that will be undertaking that challenge.
|GK||Claudio Bravo||Real Sociedad|
|GK||Johnny Herrera||Universidad de Chile|
|GK||Cristopher Toselli||Universidad Catolica|
|D||Gary Medel||Cardiff City|
|D||Gonzalo Jara||Nottingham Forest|
|D||Marcos Gonzalez||Union Espanola|
|D||Enzo Andia||Universidad Catolica|
|D||Jose Rojas||Universidad de Chile|
|MF||Jose Pedro Fuenzalida||Colo Colo|
|F||Esteban Paredes||Colo Colo|
|F||Gustavo Canales||Union Espanola|
|F||Mauricio Pinilla||Mauricio Pinilla|
Starting 11 Projections
Formation: Varies and fluctuates between 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 or 4-4-2. Occasionally, they will play with three at the back as well.
GK: Claudio Bravo
LB: Eugenio Mena
CB: Marcos Gonzalez
CB: Gary Medel
RB: Mauricio Isla
LM: Jean Beausejour
CM: Charles Aranguiz
CM: Jorge Valdivia
CM: Arturo Vidal
RM: Alexis Sanchez
F: Eduardo Vargas
Without question, the biggest area of concern for Chile heading into this tournament is the health of midfielder Arturo Vidal, the team's talisman. The Juventus star recently had surgery on his right knee, and both he and his surgeon are hopeful he can play, per Paul Collins of the Daily Mail:
'The surgery went very well,' Vidal tweeted after the procedure. 'Now, I'll give it my best to join my team-mates in Brazil! Go Chile!'
The operation in Barcelona was led by specialist surgeon Ramon Cugat, and was accompanied by Chile and Juventus team doctors. The club, who won the Serie A title on Sunday, said Vidal needed arthroscopic surgery on the lateral meniscus of his right knee.
'We don't dare to say a recovery time because there's a World Cup in the making,' Cugat after the surgery. 'There are many factors at play here: He has to be in good form, in a good mood, and his knee has to respond well. But he's a very courageous player with a strong character, and he's always positive. He's a winner.'
Chile are a strong, fairly deep squad, but without a player of Vidal's quality, it's hard to imagine them beating Spain or the Netherlands. The midfielder scored 11 goals, notched five assists and earned an excellent 7.43 average match rating from WhoScored.com in Serie A play this season, proving once again his value.
Chile are also led by Barcelona's bright star Alexis Sanchez, the country's most dangerous attacking player. The crafty winger is coming off an excellent season for Barcelona where he scored 18 goals and added 10 assists, so he'll be a key man for Chile.
There are a few selections for the starting 11 that seem pretty clear. Claudio Bravo will start as the keeper. Gary Medel, Eugenio Mena and Mauricio Isla will almost surely feature on defense. Jorge Valdivia has been a Sampaoli favorite in the past. Eduardo Vargas has become a mainstay at forward.
But Chile are a fluid side that shift tactically depending on the opponent, so predicting a starting 11 for them can be tricky. Very likely, they'll look a little different for each match. Sampaoli has the players to play such a shifting style, which makes Chile quite dangerous.
If you think teams don't fear Chile, well, just consider the following tweets from Ed Malyon of the Mirror and Leander Schaerlaeckens of Fox Soccer about Dutch manager Louis van Gaal:
Van Gaal trying a 5-3-2 may be down to Strootman absence but I wonder if he has half an eye on Chile's shape. That game will decide their WC— Ed Malyon (@eaamalyon) May 13, 2014
Van Gaal admits Dutch working on a "5-3-2" system with wing backs (so a 3-5-2, or whatever) to combat Spain and Chile. Semis still the goal.— LeanderLastNameNoFit (@LeanderOnFOX) May 13, 2014
They won't be hyped as much as the Spaniards or the Dutch, but it wouldn't be much of a surprise if the Chileans advanced to the knockout phase at the expense of either.
This is a very talented squad, and if Vidal is able to play, they are quite capable of making a deep run in Brazil.