Chile began their FIFA World Cup 2014 campaign with an entertaining 3-1 victory over Australia on Friday evening, with Alexis Sanchez and Jorge Valdivia among the goalscorers.
The Socceroos were all at sea early and conceded twice inside the first 15 minutes, but they hauled themselves back into the contest via Tim Cahill and threatened to level too. Jean Beausejour rifled in a late strike from distance to seal it.
Formations and XIs
Chile began in a 4-3-3 base set, but in reality it was more a 4-3-1-2 with true wide forwards in Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas. Valdivia drifted in and out of the No. 10 position.
Australia set up a 4-2-3-1, with Mark Bresciano as a deep No. 10, Mile Jedinak and Mark Milligan in defensive midfield and pacey wingers on the flanks.
Chile: Swarm of Bees
Chile come out of the blocks firing in every match; the No. 1 objective when facing them is to keep it tight early on. Negotiate the first 20 minutes at 0-0 and you can grow into the game; fail, and you're essentially roadkill.
Their odd system—whereby they create centre-forwards as and when they need them, rather than stick with an orthodox one to play off—confuses many, and they use that to their advantage, striking you before you can settle.
Chile's early attacks may have brought them two goals, but they weren't particularly organised, despite the perceived dominance. The first was simply hard work from Charles Aranguiz, keeping a move alive, but the second epitomises what Jorge Sampaoli is trying to achieve: chaos on the pitch.
La Roja surged down the right-hand side after playing it quickly from player to player, and Australia abandoned all sense of pragmatism and structure in their formation.
Valdivia simply stepped off, creating space for himself, and fired Sanchez's sideways pass coolly into the corner of the net.
Keep Calm and Cross It to Tim Cahill
We questioned how long the possession-happy, pass-first philosophy Ange Postecoglou has introduced would last in the face of Chile's furious pressing, and the answer was about six minutes.
La Roja prevented them from playing their preferred game, but the "plan B"—break early, cross it to Cahill—suited the pattern of the game better anyway.
Australia showed in the opening five minutes that they could identify and hit space on this pitch, with the target areas in particular being behind Mauricio Isla and in front of Gary Medel.
Matthew Leckie and Tommy Oar were hit early and often out of defence as the first ball, and they were asked to carry it in 30-yard sprints and deliver it into the box. Cahill vs. Medel and Jara—who both measure out exceptionally small for centre-backs—is a complete mismatch.
Chile's Vertical Change
With Australia back in the game, another Cahill goal disallowed and Valdivia's influence waning, Sampaoli changed his approach and switched to a vertical style.
Before, every attack was a team move created via dribbles, short passes and overlaps; in the final 25, almost everything was sourced via direct passes behind the defence and long balls into the path of substitute Jean Beausejour on the left.
Vargas moved into a true centre-forward's role and ran on the shoulder of the defence, and it became clear La Roja's new approach was to counter-attack Australia after sucking them forward in hope of an equaliser.
The amount of "nearly chances" were astonishing, but Beausejour lacks any form of composure and failed to convert any of his excellent positions into goalscoring opportunities.
Chile's third and final strike was a product of Australia overcommitting, in search of an equaliser.
It actually petered out a little after a furious start, and a legitimate takeaway from the contest is that Australia aren't as bad as advertised, and Chile aren't quite as good.
La Roja's soft central defensive setup would have been murdered by Fernando Llorente and will struggle against others, while you also get the feeling Andres Iniesta would unpick the Socceroos' defence with ease.
Arturo Vidal didn't look fit at all, but he bagged 60 minutes in a competitive match, didn't have to stretch or exert himself and the team won.
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