Infamously famous

From Leonel Sanchez to ‘The Battle of Santiago’ to Marcelo Salas’ wonder goal at Wembley, the nation has contributed its fair share to footballing remembrance.

Despite never winning a top prize, Chile has a reasonably well-established football history; it appeared in the first-ever World Cup in 1930 and took part in seven further finals (1950, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1982, 1998 and 2010), which included a remarkable third-place finish in 1962. From Leonel Sanchez to ‘The Battle of Santiago’ to Marcelo Salas’ wonder goal at Wembley, the nation has contributed its fair share to footballing remembrance. Here are some of the key moments:

Welcoming the footballing world

Chile will remember the 1962 FIFA World Cup on home soil in more ways than one. Following a devastating earthquake in 1960, Chile was awarded the right to host the tournament as recompense. The Big Four of Jaime Rodriguez, Jorge Toro, Leonel Sanchez and Eladio Rojas scored a combined 10 goals as Chile finished third — its best ever finish. The then 24-year-old Sanchez was top-scorer with four goals, but his contribution was not limited only to the scorers’ chart. The Chilean, son of a professional boxer, was in the thick of action in the second group match against Italy — this was famously dubbed ‘The Battle of Santiago’.

If Henry Cooper’s sledgehammer left hook floored the then Cassius Clay and left him gasping for air in a heavyweight boxing match in 1963, the ‘multi-talented’ Leonel Sanchez’s blows would have come close.

Tensions were running high before the group match against Italy, with two Italian journalists panning Santiago and its women. The matchday resembled a war-like scene and it was clear that La Roja would take nothing lying down.

The first foul was committed within 12 seconds and Giorgio Ferrini was sent off for Italy, within eight minutes. 10 men became nine soon after when Mario David gave a flying kick to Sanchez in the head. This apparently seemed in retaliation to Sanchez flattening David with a punch. Sanchez later broke Humberto Maschio’s nose with a left hook. What prompted this wild attack from the gifted Sanchez — a fast dribbling left-winger and the country’s biggest star — none will ever know. He was not sent off for either offence, with the host scoring in the 74th and 88th minutes to advance. “I wasn’t reffing a football match; I was acting as an umpire in military manoeuvres,” recalled traumatised referee Ken Aston many years later.

A winner after all

Aston made a brave return at the next Cup in 1966 as head of refereeing. As a way of making up for the angst at losing control of the Santiago match, he realised a two-card system — yellow indicating a caution and red an expulsion — after taking inspiration from a traffic-light during the course of the tournament. The 1970 edition was the first to implement it, but a disciplined event meant no players were dismissed. The first red card was eventually shown in 1974. Ironically, it was a Chilean, Carlos Caszely, who entered the record books after his drop-kick on Bertie Vogts!

Aston was a winner after all.

Into the wilderness: The Roberto Rojas Scandal

The “win at all costs” ideology goes a long way back. Aside from being a violation of sporting spirit and morality, it has real costs. Chilean football, unfortunately, contributed one of the most famous acts of sporting skulduggery.

Chile needed to beat Brazil in Rio de Janeiro to reach Italia ’90, and with his side down 0-1 around the 67th minute, goalkeeper Roberto Rojas fell to the ground with an apparent injury (he whipped out a blade concealed in his glove and cut his own face) after a missile, from a Brazilian fan, was thrown in his direction. Chile demanded an immediate abandonment. A week later, video evidence proved the missile had missed its target. Brazil was handed a 2-0 win, Chile was barred from the next World Cup and Rojas for life.

Volley at Wembley

After its banishment from USA ’94, Chile came back with new hopes and new stars. Marcelo Salas Golazo was one of them. He fired in 10 goals in qualification for the 1998 WC, along with partner Ivan Zamorano, and struck another four at the finals. But his, and Chile’s, most memorable moment will always be the stunning volley against England at Wembley, controlling a 40-yard pass with his knee and firing in a shot into the bottom corner.

* * * `EL MATADOR'

Marcelo Salas (in pic) was among Chile's ?nest forwards. He had a wonderful left-foot and won a staggering amount of aerial balls for someone just ?ve feet and eight inches. `El Matador' was successful at national and club level - he scored 37 goals in 70 appearances for Chile and was a three-time Serie A winner with Lazio and Juventus.

Leonel Sanchez is still regarded as one of Chile's most revered footballers. Controversial as he was, his fast dribbling skills from the left-wing made him a delight to watch. He still holds the record for most games played for Chile with 84 (23 goals). He was an icon of the famous Universidad de Chile or Ballet Azul (Blue Ballet), a team which won six national titles between 1959 and 1969. He won the `Golden Boot' in the 1962 WC at home. Arjun Ambarnath