Spain vs. Chile: Sampaoli's High-Press, High-Intensity Strategy Destroys La Roja

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 18, 2014

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Spain crashed out of the FIFA World Cup 2014 on Wednesday night, losing 2-0 to Chile at the Maracana.

Eduardo Vargas poked home early on after great work from Charles Aranguiz, then the latter doubled the lead with a slick effort in the aftermath of a free-kick.


Formations and XIs


Spain set out a rather cautious 4-2-3-1 formation with Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets holding, David Silva as a No. 10 and Andres Iniesta on the left.

Chile used a weird, wonderful 3-4-1-2 system. Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez played up front, Arturo Vidal was an aggressive No. 10 and Francisco Silva came in at centre-back.


Press, Press, Press

Chile pressed high up the pitch from the word go, committing men forward to closing down and appearing willing to leave gaps in midfield.

Aranguiz and Marcelo Diaz, playing as a midfield two in vast swathes of space, did superbly to motor around, close off angles and pressure passes that slipped through the first line of pressure.

Credit: BBC

The wing-backs played very advanced, contributing to the first line of press as part of a five and in the second and third phases (further back) too.

Their high stance allowed Silva and Co. to lead a high defensive line, and with Spain utilising only one striker, Gary Medel was able to commit to man-marking him most of the time. The Cardiff City man stepped out of defence exceptionally well to cut out through balls, and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was always there to sweep up behind if necessary.

The one slight thorn in Chile's side was Pedro Rodriguez finding pockets of space in between Diaz and left wing-back Eugenio Mena, but his poor decision-making rendered it a non-threat.



Going forward Chile were just as impressive, and while they didn't control games using metronome Diaz like we've seen before, they attacked with venom and incisiveness. clocked them at just 37 percent possession—a rarity for Sampaoli's side—but then again, it perhaps saved them from their biggest vice: failure to win games they dominate on the ball.

Credit: BBC

When Alexis surges forward, he's tough to contain and near-impossible to keep up with, but what's worse is the runners feeding off the space he creates. Jorge Valdivia's goal against Australia was the product of a strong dribble and several dummy runs off the ball; Vargas's opener here boasts similar shades.

Vidal was a monster in creating turnovers high up and dribbling forward with direction at pace, and the team as a whole swamped out ball-carriers in an effort to turn the tide of the game.



Spain sent on Koke for Alonso at half-time, looking to fix the slow, cumbersome passing rhythm they'd accidentally fallen into. 

It worked for around 10 minutes, with Koke taking a maximum of two touches before moving the ball along swiftly, heightening the tempo of La Roja's play, but other crippling factors ensured no progress was made.


Alonso's two appalling misses in the first half were joined by Sergio Busquet's howler and Diego Costa's hesitancy while in on goal. As bad as Spain's results look, profligacy is a major factor here.

In response to Spain's quicker, more incisive football, Sampaoli withdrew his wing-backs and played, for the most part, a five-man defensive line with Mena and Mauricio Isla in alongside Medel and Co.

Attacks came through three or four men to five or six, with Alexis once again showing he's arguably the fittest football at the finals.



Spain are the first team to be knocked out of the FIFA World Cup 2014 despite lifting the trophy in 2010.

There were suggestions Cameroon would be the first ones out, making it a consecutive achievement for the Indomitable Lions, but La Roja have beaten them, it seems, by a few hours.

Vicente Del Bosque suggested to reporters post-match, according to the Associated Press' Paul Logothetis (via The San Diego Tribune), that changes would be made and that "we need to look at what's best for Spanish football" in the aftermath.

Chile deserve all the credit, though, and this result isn't to say that tiki-taka is dead. Spain played bad football, for the most part, but you can't put their displays under the label of this oft-misused term.

An astonishing display from Sampaoli's men.