Chile Show What Might Have Been and How to Stop Brazil at Their Own World Cup

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Chile Show What Might Have Been and How to Stop Brazil at Their Own World Cup
Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

Chile have become the first side to exit the 2014 FIFA World Cup on penalties after a stupendous round-of-16 match against Brazil ended with a shootout defeat after a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes.

One of the most exciting, tense and incident-filled games of the finals so far saw these two South American sides go at each other from start to finish, through extra time and beyond. La Roja showed they had plenty of quality in their game to really be a threat in the latter stages—had the woodwork not intervened against them.

Perhaps more pertinently to others intent on ruining Brazil's ongoing party, they've shown how the host nation can be shut down and overcome.

"We knew, when the draw was made, we were going to be in for a tough time," Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari told FIFA.com. "(Chile are) a very organised team with a good tactical system and fine players."

 

No Respite

The off-the-ball work of the Chile players started with the forwards and was exemplified and repeated throughout the side. Alexis Sanchez led from the front with his relentless tracking back, closing down and looking to win the ball in midfield, starting in turn Chile's patented fast transition attacks to overload in the final third before Brazil's defensive players could recover.

Hassan Ammar/Associated Press
Neymar was frequently and rapidly surrounded

Their goal arrived in such a fashion, but that was just a few brief seconds—La Roja's players did it for 120 minutes, ceaselessly.

The shape at the back was compact, organised and difficult to play through, whether they had five at the back or just the four in spells, and every player knew their tactical role on the pitch.

Brazil haven't been at their best yet, but even their more impressive performers, especially the creative players, were just given no time on the ball whatsoever.

BBC Sport's Alan Shearer noted the ineffectiveness of Brazil's attacking players:

Brazil have got away with it. They have not reached the level they can but they keep getting the luck. Going forward, apart from Neymar, it is a weak point for Brazil. They are reasonably solid defensively but struggle in attack.

With reduced time and space to operate in, the likes of Neymar and Hulk resorted to constantly dribbling around their marker, only to find another approaching, and another. Multiple times Chile turned over possession in this way, and even if their own time on the ball didn't yield a chance at the opposite end, they prevented Brazil's attacking players having a huge influence on the game for long stretches.

For the likes of Colombia—and perhaps later opponents—it is clear who the dangermen are in this Brazil side and how quickly pressing and surrounding them blunts not just those individuals' threat, but that of the entire team.

 

The Spine of Five

Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel, Marcelo Diaz, Charles Aranguiz, Alexis Sanchez.

That line of players were not only giving every ounce of effort, determination and desire on the pitch, leaving nothing behind, but were also impressive in possession and tactically perfect for Jorge Sampaoli.

Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

Add in the likes of Arturo Vidal, Eugenio Mena and Francisco Silva all showing the same desire and ability to stop Brazil's attacking threat and offer options going forward, and Chile had a real team ethic in evidence throughout.

Individually and at the top of all their games, Brazil might win out over Chile in a man-to-man comparison, save for the likes of Alexis and Vidal.

In this arena, on this day, though, Chile were very much a match for the host nation and could not have been said to have been undeserving of going through—had very, very small breaks gone their way.

Quite naturally, any team would want their main players to turn up and have a big impact. Chile have shown the importance not just of the players themselves being in good form, but in the coach having a clear plan and in the players executing it to near-perfection.

 

Margins

Brazil will point to a disallowed Hulk goal in the second half, but it was correctly called as handball, clearly striking Hulk in the upper arm as he controlled to shoot.

The very last action of extra time is where Brazil survived by inches, as Mauricio Pinilla leathered a shot from outside the box past Julio Cesar—and against the crossbar. There would have been no time for a comeback, but penalties it was.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

And there, the woodwork denied Chile again. Neymar showed his incomparable composure, Aranguiz struck perhaps the most carefree yet vicious spot-kick ever seen...and Gonzalo Jara played the part of the villain.

Such margins do not dictate which team has been better, nor which should have won, but only which team has won.

Right now it's Brazil once again, and they take another step toward the holy grail of success on home soil. Chile, though, have laid down the blueprint for Brazil's would-be challengers, and have also displayed the quality and maturity which would have made them challengers in their own right had the dice fallen their way.

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