Three Points: Chile defeat Australia
Three observations from Chile's 3-1 win over Australia to open up their World Cup campaign.
1. The Chile Way...
If you are going to play the Chile way, there can be no half measures. It has to be all or nothing.
Chile seek to impose themselves on the game, throwing both full-backs forward at the same time in a ceaseless quest to create two-against-one situations, looking to play high-tempo, dynamic football in which they seek to suffocate the opposition by pressing them in their half of the field. In order for this to function, everyone needs to press.
Chile made hard work of their 3-1 win against Australia because everyone did not press. Perhaps it was the heat of Cuiaba, Brazil. Or maybe there is a dollop of confusion and doubt in the mind of coach Jorge Sampaoli.
The attacking intention of his team means that the opposition will always have their moments against Chile.
In this instance it seemed that Sampaoli was terrified by the prospect of his entire back line being taken out by one pass -- as happened in a recent friendly against Egypt, where Chile quickly found themselves two goals down before hitting back to win.
Against Australia, then, the back line kept retreating. This had a number of consequences.
First, it gave Australia the space to organise their counterattacks.
Second, by dropping back Chile ended up inviting Australia to get crosses into their area -- playing to the strength of their opponents, whose main attacking weapon is the heading of Tim Cahill, and showing up one of the giant weaknesses of the Chile side, its lack of defensive height. Chile were fortunate that this mistake cost them only a single goal.
2. Socceroos can't take advantage
True, Australia did not pass the ball behind Chile's defensive line. But they did not need to in order to cause problems. Every cross coming into the box was a dangerous moment. This should surely have been predicted. Chile's big centre-half Marcos Gonzalez was dropped from the squad as a result of his lack of club action. Sampaoli felt he was too rusty to risk, but has no adequate replacement to deal with the aerial threat. Why Chile made it so easy for Australia to exploit this weakness is a mystery.
And third, the distance between the lines of the Chile side made it more difficult for them to fizz the ball around with their customary élan.
The high rhythm of their passing game is dependent on proximity -- they need the man receiving the ball to have several options around him to give a first-time pass.
Chile's best moments -- and there were enough of them to delight the neutrals -- were usually the result of outstanding pieces of individual skill, especially from Alexis Sanchez, rather than the quick, collective passing moves which are usually their hallmark.
3. Chile must rethink strategy
They are capable of better, and will have to find it against Spain next Wednesday. After their 5-1 mauling by the Dutch, the world champions will come out with all guns blazing.
Chile will almost certainly change their system, bringing in an extra defender -- in theory at the expense of attacking midfielder Jorge Valdivia, although Arturo Vidal is clearly some way short of his best.
Perhaps with more defensive protection, Chile will feel secure enough to go for their all-pitch press. If not, they could be in for a hard time in the game that will probably determine who goes through to the second round.