Chile/La U C&C - 2018 World Cup Report
At last, the endgame of the C&C has come onto my save, the World Cup. After a long qualifier, that saw us brilliantly qualify as in 2nd place, we traveled to Russia with a lot of hopes of making a good impression and going as far as we could. The Board reasonably expected for a Second Round participation and given the group we drew, I believe it was absolutely feasible, in fact, if we don't make it, the sack isn't unreasonable, as we should progress. Personally, I'm aiming a bit higher than that, and Quarter-Finals is a good projection, but we have a stacked team, and getting into the 4 best teams isn't something crazy to think about. With several of our golden generation at their peak, this is the World Cup to take advantage of them, and that only adds to the pressure, specially, thinking that the next generation isn't as good as this one, meaning the next World Cup will be played (hopefully), with a squad not as strong as this one, at least on a first look.
We have got a great core of players, to which I've added a few surprises for this final callup. We had no injuries, heading into the tournament, thankully.
1.- Claudio Bravo - 35 years old, FC Barcelona, 126 caps, 0 goals.
Our captain and the nation's most capped player, Bravo is right at the end of his playing career and will retire after the World Cup ends. He's the starting keeper and despite the natral age decline he's a top player for us and I believe he could go on playing for a couple more years. But well, we've got his replacement already lined up and is on the squad for the World Cup, more on that later.
12.- Christopher Toselli - 30 years old, Universidad Católica, 3 caps, 0 goals.
The perennial 2nd keeper for the National Team, Toselli never lived up to the great potential he showed on the 2007 U-20 World Cup, where he broke the longest time without conceding a goal of the tournament. He still plays at Universidad Católica, and after Bravo retires, won't take over as the #1 keeper, but rather keep his position as #2.
23.- Tomás Mardones - 20 years old, Universidad de Chile, 1 cap, 0 goals.
The future is here. Mardones is a brilliant keeper prospect, not quite ready yet, but packing a ton of potential. He's been on the La U senior squad since last season, and he'll be the team's starting keeper for 2018-19, having played last season only in the Copa Chile and one Libertadores game. I get he's not there yet and we might suffer a bit at first, but considering the next WC Qualifiers don't start until October 2019, we got plenty of time for him to develop.
4.- Mauricio Isla - 30 years old, Juventus, 99 caps, 3 goals.
The starting right fullback of the team Isla is a dynamic player who contributes a ton on the offensive side of the game, while also being very competent on the defensive duties he's assigned. Unfortunately for him, he isn't considered by Juventus' coaching staff and plays little footbal. He needs to move to another team in order to keep his level up.
2.- Eugenio Mena - 29 years old, Genoa, 66 caps, 4 goals.
Mena has been the starting left fullback for Chile during all the time I've been in charge, as he offers a solid, balanced play on both areas,and is quicker than Albornoz, who is the other candidate to be the starter. Mena plays for Genoa, and lost his starting position during last season. Hopefully he gets to another team who plays him more.
3.- Miiko Albornoz - 27 years old, Hannover 96, 31 caps, 2 goals.
Chilean born in Sweden, Albornoz hasn't played for a chilean based club during his career, starting on Sweden, and then moving to Germany. He's a much capable fullback, who could battle for any of the starting positions. As he's younger than the ones above him, he'll surely get some starting time in the near future. He's a regular starter for Hannover 96, his club side.
13.- Juan Cornejo - 27 years old, Universidad de Chile, 15 caps, 0 goals.
Cornejo is one of the top talents in the Chilean league right now and I don't think we at La U can hold on to him for much longer. Very much in the same mold as his partners above him, he's a solid fullback who might get some starting time when Isla and Mena aren't up for the job.
17.- Gary Medel - 30 years old, Inter, 113 caps, 7 goals.
The sould of the team and next Captain, after Bravo reitires, Medel is just one of those players, any die-hard fan would like to have on his team and that every opposing fan hates. Aggressive, Brave and Fierce on defence he usually plays on centre midfield for his clubs but due to the lack of centre backs, he's Chile's top stopper. Constantly on the top players for his club, Medel has enjoyed four straight seasons playing over 90% of Inter's games.
6.- Erick Pulgar - 24 years old, Roma, 37 caps, 1 goal.
One of the young starters for our side, Pulgar is a brilliant CB/DM hybrid, with great technical skills and an array of stopping moves, plus some great size, a quality our team normally lacks. He was transferred to Roma, from Bologna at the winter break last season, and took over the starting job immediately at the Giallorossi, despite not adjusting to the team that much. I expect him to keep on playing as the starting CB for his team.
14.- Enzo Roco - 25 years old, Espanyol, 15 caps, 1 goal.
A typical towering CB, Roco and his 190 centimetres are a great asset to have and utilize sporadically, when the situation is deserving. Roco isn't technically gifted, obviously but doesn't suck at that as well, making him a viable option for the near future.
19.- Igor Lichnovsky - 24 years old, Celtic, 1 cap, 0 goals.
Another big CB (well, we aren't that small, actually, hahaa), with limited techical skills but not nearly as good as Roco, Lichnovsky showed promise when he played at La U, but spoiled his career by leaving too soon and not playing much football during the time. He's useful as a reserve CB and might be used during the future. Lichnovsky moved to Celtic from Porto last season, and enjoyed a great year as the starting CB for the Scottish team.
8.- Arturo Vidal - 31 years old, FC Bayern, 100 caps, 22 goals.
One of our top players, Vidal is a fantastic all-round, world class midfielder who can pretty much do anything. With his brilliant mental skills and great physical ability, I expect Vidal to be at international form for the next World Cup, despite him being 35 years old. He's one of the top players at Bayern a perennial starter.
21.- Marcelo Díaz - 31 years old, HSV, 72 caps, 1 goal.
A gifted deep playmaker, Díaz is one of those players who can take the ball at rough times and dictate play, changing the tempo of football, like a puppeteer. Not the best player physically, I don't expect him to be at top form by the time the next World Cup comes and I might even start phazing him out of the starting position after Russia. He's a starter for HSV and one of their best players.
20.- Charles Aránguiz - 29 years old, Leverkusen, 74 caps, 7 goals.
One of my favourite real-life players, Aránguiz is a tenacious midfielder who always seems to be in the right place and make the right decision. Unfortunately, his coach at Leverkusen doesn't show the same level of appreciation as me, and has him relegated to a rotational squad status, having him play less games than what he should. I'm seriously thinking of hiring some hitmen to show him the wrong of his ways.
15.- Felipe Gutiérrez - 27 years old, FC Twente, 45 caps, 5 goals.
Our top bench player, Gutiérrez is a great midfielder and can replace either one of the three starters. He's also got age on his side and probably will be promoted for a starting job sometime during the next WCQ process. Gutiérrez is one of the best players in the Eredivisie and an icon of FC Twente.
16.- Lorenzo Reyes - 27 years old, Betis, 20 caps, 0 goals.
A classic holding midfielder, Reyes is a great asset to have for certain situations when we need a bit of an edge recovering the ball in midfield. He moved to Spain young, from Huachipato and has been a starter for all his seasons there (one in Almería on loan), making himself a good choice for the squad.
5.- Sebastián Martínez - 25 years old, Universidad de Chile, 10 caps, 0 goals.
Another domestic player from our club side, Martínez doesn't get much playing time for the NT, but he's a decent squad filler, and has some years left to grow still. He's one of our top players at La U and he might leave us if a decent offer comes our way.
10.- Luciano Cabral - 24 years old, Galatasaray, 22 caps, 1 goal.
An innate playmaker, Cabral was born in Argentina but decided to play for Chile early on his career. A great, classic #10, Cabral will be a starter on the team sooner than later, and gets into games normally from the bench, when a bit of creativity is needed. He moved to Galatasaray last season from his former Argentinean club and became an instant starter for them.
7.- Alexis Sánchez - 29 years old, Arsenal, 121 caps, 59 goals.
Our top player and one of football brightest stars, Alexis is a gem to have and the Nation's top international scorer, for a while now. He's decisive and creative, normally either scoring himself or setting a teammate up for a score, I want him to be on his top form come the next World Cup, but I think he might lose a step (or two), by then.
9.- Eduardo Vargas - 28 years old, Hoffenheim, 82 caps, 51 goals.
A fast striker, who can also play on the wings, Vargas has a nice rivalry with Alexis for the top spot at the nation's scoring table, with Alexis leading the way by several goals, but also with a lot more caps. Lethal on the counter-attack, Vargas can score from several positions and is deadly off his dribble. He was the leading scorer for Hoffenheim last season and enjoys a fixed place on the starting 11.
11.- Angelo Henríquez - 24 years old, Sporting CP, 39 caps, 15 goals.
Labeled as the future of the team, Henríquez suffered a bit, carrying that name early on his career, but has established as a starter for the Nartional Team after the Copa América and has started to get goals in, showing great composure and movement. He struggled in his first season in Portugal, after a great stint in Croatia, but I expect him to get back on his feet and keep pounding goals in.
18.- Mathías Pinto - 19 years old, Universidad de Chile, 7 caps, 1 goal.
The breakout star of La U in the past two seasons, Pinto has fully deserved the callup to the NT, specially when factored in that we lack strikers with potential and goalscoring ability (he has scored around 60 goals in the last two years). His combination of size and speed is great and the best of it is that he stll can improve a lot.
22.- Felipe Pinilla - 20 years old, Universidad de Chile, 2 caps, 1 goal.
Pinto's partner in crime, Pinilla (not related to Mauricio Pinilla), is another of La U's brightest stars, an all-round striker who can pretty much fullfill any role on the pitch. He's a great goalscorer, but also shows great vision and passing skills (had 25 goals and 11 assists last season, his first as a full-time starter), and much like Pinto he has a lot of potential left in him. I think we might see this partnership in the future of Chile's NT.
2018 World Cup
I fell into a fairly straightforward group, alogside The Netherlands, South Korea and Egypt. Getting a good result against the Dutch was key, as our "sister group", had Spain in it, which meant that a 2nd place finish in the group would probably pit us against them in the 2nd Round.
- Group Stage, game 1 - June 16th, 2018 - Netherlands vs. Chile
We kicked off the group with maybe the most important game, facing the strongest team of the group. During the first half, we were completely overran by the Dutch, who managed to get a score in before the first minute of the game, via Richairo Živković, after a mistake by Erick Pulgar. Fortunately, in our first shot of the game, Angelo Henríquez managed to tie the game by '13, but the game kept being uphill for us, as the Dutch had the ball and created chances. In a corner, Memphis Depay put them ahead by '34, and we went to the locker room down one goal, with a lot to improve. Starting the 2nd half, the Dutch surprised us again, and Živković put up another goal to get us down by two. After that, we managed to wake up and push a bit forward, but, despite several good chances created none of them ended in goal. When the game was ending, Arturo Vidal scored on a header, to narrow the gap, but in the end it wasn't enough to get points in the first game.
On the other game of the group South Korea beat Egypt 4-0.
Result: Netherlands 3 ('Živković 1, '49, Depay '34) - Chile 2 (Henríquez '13, Vidal '90+2).
Starting 11: Bravo; Isla, Medel, Pulgar, Mena; Díaz ('65 Reyes), Aránguiz, Vidal; Henríquez ('75 Pinto), Vargas ('51 Cabral), Alexis.
- Group Stage, game 2 - June 22nd, 2018 - Chile vs. Egypt
With some pressure onto us, given specially by the great result from South Korea, we faced the Egyptians, in a game where we had to win, as not getting 3 points here, would probably end our hopes of a decent campaign (and it might even end the save). We were the best team on the pitch from the start, but despite getting into good positions, we couldn't generate chances due to our nerves and the first 20 minutes of the game were pretty tense. But then, Angelo Henríquez found a loose ball and put up a nice goal to boost our confidence by '22, and just a couple of minutes later, at '24, Eduardo Vargas spearheaded a lethal counter attack to double our lead. In the second half, we managed the ball efficiently, and pushed forward in the last 15 minutes of the game, finding another couple of goals, courtesy of Henríquez, who completed his World Cup hattrick by '74 and '83.
In the other game of the group, South Korea shocked the world, beating the Netherlands 1-0.
Result: Chile 4 (Henríquez, '22, '74, '83, Vargas '24) - Egypt 0
Starting 11: Bravo, Isla, Medel ('65 Roco), Pulgar, Mena; Díaz, Aránguiz ('65 Gutiérrez), Vidal ('67 Reyes); Henríquez, Vargas, Alexis.
- Group Stage, game 3 - June 27th, 2018 - Chile vs. South Korea
Ok, things were tense around here, as the Koreans led the group, with six points, followed by us and the Dutch with 3 and Egypt dead last with no points. We needed a win to get the qualification, as a draw, plus a sure Dutch win, would leave us third in the group. The Koreans were a tough team, with a strong defensive mentality and could make things tough for us, but I knew we were the better team. It was a tough first half, with no team overcoming the other, but with us on better positions. Just when we thought we'd go to the locker room without goals, Alexis managed to score after a nice play from Henríquez, at '44, to put us ahead. In the second half, the Koreans pushed forward to try and get a goal, which opened spaces for us, and we only needed another goal to secure the 1st place on the table (we had better goal difference than Korea and the Dutch), and we found it, via Eduardo Vargas, by '60, a goal that managed to quiet the nerves we once had. Vargas scored another one, at '73 to seal the victory and get us into the Second Round in 1st place.
In the other game, the Netherlands beat Egypt 1-0
Result: Chile 3 (Alexis '44, Vargas '60, '73) - South Korea 0
Starting 11: Bravo, Isla, Medel ('61 Roco), Pulgar, Mena; Díaz, Aránguiz ('61 Reyes), Vidal ('45 Gutiérrez); Henríquez, Vargas, Alexis.
The group ended up having a bit surprise, as the Dutch failed to qualify, due to their lackluster goal difference. Our opponent in the 2nd Round was the 2nd placed team from Group D, which ended up being Croatia, surely a tricky opponent, but nowhere near the Spanish, who ended up 1st. But having lost Vidal for the rest of the tournament on a Virus, and with Marcelo Díaz suspended, I fugured it wasn't gonna be easy.
- Second Round - July 1st, 2018 - Croatia vs. Chile
Without wanting me to be, our tactic has a brilliant counter-attacking nature, which suits our players perfectly, even with other mentalities (Control or Attacking), the team naturally hands possession over to the rival and when we have the ball, we desperately push forward, trying to finish plays quickly. Against the Croatians, this worked like a charm, as in the first 20 minutes of play, the team gave us a masterclass in counter-attacking. Things started off brilliantly, with Vargas slotting in a header before the first minute of play, and Mena doubling our lead by '12. But I didn't expect that we would get another goal by '16, when Henríquez found a loose ball inside the box, or another by Alexis, who at '18 beat Subasic on a 1-on-1, and yet another, when Alexis found his second, and our fifth goal, by '22, when he scored on a header, after a cross from Henríquez. By the time the clock hit a quarter of the game, we were already five goals up, in the Second Round of a World Cup. After that, I told the team to let the Croatians control the ball, sit back and keep pounding on the counter. In the rest of the game, Bravo saved several chances, and we generated a few of our own, eventually finding the sixth goal via Mathías Pinto, on '58.
It was a brilliant performance, reminescent of the German massacre in Brazil 2014, albeit against a smaller opponent, and not in the semi-finals. But, the joy of the achievement, was overshadowed by two awful injuries, as we lost Alexis and Eduardo Vargas for the rest of the cup.
Result: Croatia 0 - Chile 6 (Vargas '1, Mena '12, Henríquez '16, Alexis '18, '22, Pinto '58)
Starting 11: Bravo, Isla, Medel ('61 Roco), Pulgar, Mena; Reyes, Aránguiz, Gutiérrez; Henríquez, Vargas ('54 Cabral), Alexis ('29 Pinto).
- Quarter Final, July 6th, 2018 - Italy vs, Chile
The Italians beat Colombia to get here and I had faced them before the start of the World Cup, getting a draw, but outplaying them completely in Rome, but this time, without Alexis, Vidal and Vargas, I didn't feel as confident. The Italians were the best team on the pitch, and we were limited to sporadic counter attacks, ending up the first half with only 2 shots on goal. Bravo was starting to be the best player on the pitch as he denied Gabbiadini and Berardi on and on, and we managed to get to halftime 0-0. In the second half, we improved a bit, getting more pressure and taking the ball into their field, but just as we were starting to get chances, Darmian scored on a corner, by '73 and left us down one goal. I was sure this was the end, but we looked our best after the Italian goal, getting a few good chances in, one of them, slotted in by Felipe Pinilla, just a minute after the goal from Darmian, on '74. The game went to Extra Time, and we lost Aránguiz to injury (after using up all the subs), leaving us with 10 men, but we stood still, getting into the penalties. There, we fell short, with Henríquez and Díaz missing their shots, while the Italians got all of theirs in. I can't shake the feeling that, injuries cost us the chance of getting into the final four.
Result: Italy 1 (Darmian '73) (4) - Chile 1 (Pinilla '74) (3) (a.e.t. 1-1)
Starting 11: Bravo; Isla, Medel, Pulgar, Mena ('61 Albornoz); Díaz, Aránguiz, Reyes ('61 Martínez), Cabral; Pinto ('61 Pinilla), Henríquez.
After the dust settled, Argentina beat Brazil in the World Cup Final, to get their third WC trophy and at last have Messi win it all.
Awards and Stats
We had a few great performances, Isla, Henríquez, Vargas, Mena, Aránguiz and Alexis, to name a few. We even featured in the tournament's best 11, and had one of the individual awards handed to one of our own.
Golden Ball: 1.- Bernardo Silva (Portugal), 2.- Sergio Agüero (Argentina), 3.- Eduardo Vargas (Chile).
Golden Shoe: 1.- Angelo Henríquez (Chile, 5 goals 5 games), 2.- Neymar (Brazil, 5 goals, 7 games), 3.- Eduardo Vargas (Chile, 4 goals, 4 games).
Best Young Player: Gabriel Barbosa (Brazil).
Dream Team: Ospina (Colombia), Danilo (Brazil), Stones (England), Paulo Oliveira (Portugal), Mas (Argentina); Cuadrado (Colombia), Bernardo (Portugal), Coutinho (Brazil), Gaitán (Argentina), Henríquez (Chile), Agüero (Argentina). Subs: Rulli (Argentina), Darmian (Italy), Oxlade-Chamberlain (England), Vargas (Chile), Messi (Argentina), Mena (Chile), Neymar (Brazil), Vidal (Chile), Jose Mauri (Argentina), Alexis (Chile), Heung-Min (South Korea), Shaw (England).
Lev Yashin: David Ospina (Colombia)
C-H-I, CHI! L-E, LE! CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!
- The result impressed the FA, and despite the sour taste of the penalty elimination, it impressed me as well, specially the beating of Croatia.
- Our team isn't young, and several of this players will be phazed out soon. I plan on doing a squad report before the start of the next WCQ's.
- We're 6th on the FIFA Rankings, a great place to be.