4 Key Selection Decisions for Chile Ahead of World Cup Clash with Spain
Following a solid if slightly unconvincing win over Australia, Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli has some important selection decisions to make ahead of Wednesday’s match against World Cup holders Spain.
The Spanish were humbled 5-1 by Netherlands in their first match of the tournament and will be determined to get a positive result in their second Group B fixture. Victories for Chile and Netherlands on the second matchday would see Spain eliminated.
Sampaoli still has some formation and personnel issues to resolve ahead of the fixture. Here are his four key selection decisions for the crucial match against Spain.
3 or 4 at the Back
Chile used a back three to solid effect in their 2-2 friendly draw with Spain in September of last year. After watching his side suffer from a lack of defensive cover when set up in a back four against Australia, Sampaoli is again likely to use three centre-backs on Wednesday.
If he needed any further encouragement, Netherlands’ successful deployment of the same alignment in their comfortable victory over Spain on Group B’s opening matchday would have been sufficient to make up his mind.
As per Prensa Futbol (in Spanish), Francisco Silva is the man most likely to join Gary Medel and Gonzalo Jara in the Chilean back line.
The Osasuna midfielder played a similar role in the narrow friendly defeat to Germany earlier this year and in the World Cup warm-up match against Northern Ireland. He was turned too easily on one occasion during the latter fixture but otherwise did a solid job in his defensive work and provided simple but crisp distribution into midfield.
Chile will look to take the game to Spain and the mobility of their back line, made up of two defensive midfielders and a full-back, will be vital in ensuring all gaps are plugged at the other end of the pitch.
Whether to Start Arturo Vidal
Arturo Vidal was clearly not fully fit during the victory over Australia. It was his first start since returning from knee surgery and while he did provide a nice diagonal pass to Charles Aranguiz in the build up to the opening goal, he did not play with the awesome dynamism that usually marks his performances
He was substituted for Felipe Gutierrez on the hour mark.
Vidal has, however, declared himself ready to take on Spain. “I’m in very good condition and I hope to start,” he said at a press conference on Monday, as reported by AFP. “I’m good, 100 per cent physically and I’m not thinking about my knee.”
Sampaoli’s system demands a lot from each of his players and he cannot afford to carry any passengers. Vidal is one of the few players he would be willing to make a small exception for and the Juventus man is, barring any last-minute setbacks, all but certain to start on Wednesday.
Jorge Valdivia or Someone Who Contributes More Defensively
Jorge Valdivia started against Australia and scored Chile’s second goal with a lovely placed finish from the edge of the area. The Palmeiras playmaker could, however, drop out of the starting XI for the match against Spain, with Sampaoli likely to prefer a more dynamic option at the head of his midfield.
Arturo Vidal started in the attacking midfield position in Chile’s 2-2 friendly draw with Spain last September and in the 1-0 defeat away to Germany in March. In both matches, he played a similar role to that of Raul Garcia at Atletico Madrid—he led the Chilean press and got himself into the penalty area to provide an aerial presence in attack.
As per Prensa Futbol (in Spanish), Vidal was deployed in this position in Chile’s final training session at their base in Belo Horizonte. He is expected to start on Wednesday, with Valdivia dropping to the bench.
Mena or Beausejour
Eugenio Mena did not enjoy the best of matches against Australia. He was troubled throughout by the direct running of Mathew Leckie and although he did get forward regularly, he often failed to produce a quality final ball.
Jean Beausejour was brought on to play ahead of him for the final 20 minutes or so and sealed Chile’s victory with a well-struck low drive in stoppage time.
Sampaoli rarely trusts Beausejour with a full-back role, but the Wigan man will be in contention to replace Mena as the left wing-back should Chile, as expected, line up with three centre-backs and two wing-backs on Wednesday.