Chilly hot!

First and foremost, it’s important to praise Marcelo Bielsa for his revolutionary work with Chile. After taking over a dynamic, young side in 2007, La Roja qualified second from CONMEBOL for the 2010 World Cup (after disastrous seventh and tenth-placed finishes at the previous two editions) and won many plaudits for their energetic, high-pressing game — the tactically flexible 3-3-1-3 formation is easily the most fascinating among the 32 teams at the Finals.

Bielsa’s exit in 2011, following a run-in with the federation, was untimely. But current manager Jorge Sampaoli has resurrected his compatriot’s aggressive style of play. The Chileans finished third in qualifying behind Argentina and Colombia, going 5-0-1 in their final six qualifiers after a mid-way collapse (four losses).

Rather unfortunately, Chile has been pitted in a group containing the 2010 World Cup finalists, but it has consistently shown its ability to match up to the best in the business. Four years ago in Pretoria, Spain was tormented with a version of its own short, incisive passing and brilliant off-the-ball movement by Chile. But the South Americans were ill-disciplined and Spain eventually prevailed 2-1. Last year, the teams met again in a friendly, and Spain saved its blushes with a stoppage-time equaliser! Chile beat England comprehensively, and despite two narrow, undeserved defeats to Brazil and Germany recently, the South Americans have started to believe of a best-ever showing at the World Cup. While Chile hasn’t won a knockout game since finishing third (as host) in 1962, the potential to scalp a big name or two cannot be discounted.

Its unique style of football can win more fans and annoy the best of teams, but this philosophy may also lead to defensive mistakes and cause rash challenges leading to loss of men.

Ninety minutes of running may count for nothing if all that effort is thrown away in a minute. Chile should head into its World Cup opener against Australia on June 13 with this thought in mind.