Chile went from comfortably qualifying for the 2018 World Cup to missing out on the tournament altogether in the space of 90 minutes following their 3-0 defeat to Brazil on Tuesday night at Allianz Parque in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Paulinho and Gabriel Jesus each scored in the second half to power Brazil to the win. The five-time world champions finish qualification as the top country in CONMEBOL.
Entering the final round of qualifying in the South American region, Brazil were the only country who had guaranteed themselves a place at the 2018 World Cup. Uruguay were assured of at least a continental playoff berth, and the remaining three spots were all up for grabs.
Sitting third in the CONMEBOL table with 26 points, Chile appeared to be on safe ground barring a complete collapse.
All five of the CONMEBOL qualifiers kicked off at the same time. BeIN Sports USA summed up the night for fans trying to follow the matches as they happened:
Argentina beat Ecuador 3-1 with three goals from Lionel Messi, while Peru drew 1-1 with Colombia. As a result, Argentina moved into third and Peru claimed fifth place, which means a playoff with Oceania qualifier New Zealand. Chile slipped to sixth, missing out because of a tiebreaker with Peru.
Last June, Chile won their second Copa America in as many years. La Roja also finished runners-up to Germany at the 2017 Confederations Cup, knocking out European champions Portugal along the way.
They now won't even compete at the 2018 World Cup after having qualified in 2010 and 2014.
Chile were without Arturo Vidal, who returned to his club after Bayern Munich requested he come to Germany for training under interim manager Jupp Heynckes. Vidal's absence was glaring as Chile struggled to maintain possession, and the bulk of their attacking moves relied on Alexis Sanchez's creativity out wide.
Chile's problems in the final third left them ill-prepared to respond to Brazil's rapid-fire pair of goals in the second half.
Paulinho gave the Brazilians the lead in the 55th minute when he pounced on a rebound from a Dani Alves free kick. Bravo didn't have to work too hard to make the save, but he still spilled the ball in front of the goal. Paulinho reacted quickly to slide the ball in to the back of the net.
The Barcelona midfielder didn't enjoy a great time with the national team under previous managers Luiz Felipe Scolari and Dunga. Squawka News highlighted how he has excelled with Tite at the helm:
Whereas Brazil got a bit lucky for their opener, their second goal resulted from a brilliant counterattack.
Standing inside his own half, Philippe Coutinho found Neymar running just to the left of goal. His lofted through ball hit Neymar perfectly in stride, and Neymar passed across goal to Gabriel, who had a simple finish after nearly ruining the chance with a poor first touch.
Gabriel finished the match off in the third minute of injury time. Bravo left his line to play a corner for Chile, and when Brazil cleared the ball, Gabriel had nobody standing between him and the goal.
It's difficult to understate how important failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup could be for Chile, who haven't been the same since Juan Antonio Pizzi replaced Jorge Sampaoli as national team coach.
A number of Chile's key players are in their late 20s or early 30s. This is almost certainly the last World Cup cycle for Bravo, who turned 34 in April. Sanchez will be 29 in December. Vidal and vice-captain Gary Medel are 30. Gonzalo Jara is 32 as well.
With the exception of Bravo, all of those players should still be able to contribute to Chile's bid to qualify for the 2022 World Cup but will no longer be in their prime playing years. The 2018 edition likely meant the last time Chile could make a serious push for the quarterfinals—something they haven't done since the tournament expanded beyond the semifinals in 1986—with their current core of stars.