Chile/La U C&C - 2022 World Cup Report
The epitome of a Club and Country save and of course of any international management save is The World Cup. Success in the football world is measured by this single tournament, as if any other tournament in the World was not important, and they really aren't. Lio Messi will never be "as good as" Maradona, if he doesn't help his team win a World Cup, we're talking about measuring individual qualities through the result of a team effort, that's the magnitude and importance of this tournament.
We qualified easily, with 4 games in hand from the toughest qualifier in the world and landed an affordable draw. With a full squad of incredibly talented players, I was confident of a good performance, despite not being among the favourites.
We went onto the World Cup with only one injured player, as Bryan Rabello damaged his achilles tendon a month before the WC and was forced to sit it out. I made a few big calls and left out Edú Vargas as well, who has been very inconsistent in his scarce playing time for Hoffenheim, Felipe Pinilla, who after moving to San Lorenzo hasn't been the same explosive player he was at La U and Charles Aránguiz, who has been out of the callups since a year or so, due to his lack of football at Leverkusen.
1.- Tomás Mardones - 24 years old, Dynamo Kyiv, 29 caps, 0 goals.
The still undisputed first choice keeper of the team, Mardones is a great player who shined in Ukraine after moving from La U, for a €9M fee, where he relegated Ukraine's starting GK, Maxym Koval to the bench, playing 30 games, including 6 UEFA Champions League games and 2 UEFA Europa League games. Mardones is currently negotiating with Arsenal, to move to Emirates and try to become one of the World's best goalkeepers.
12.- Christopher Toselli - 33 years old, Universidad Católica, 3 caps, 0 goals.
The eternal 2nd choice keeper, Toselli was brought in to his final international tournament, but came in as the third keeper this time. A standout for Universidad Católica, he's one of the best keepers in the Chilean league and will see out his career as an idol in Católica.
20.- Víctor Chavez - 21 years old, Universidad de Chile, 2 caps, 0 goals.
The only player with potential enough to try and take the #1 spot from Mardones is this kid. Chávez took over at La U after Mardones' exit and was brilliant in his first full time starter season, playing 50 games and not allowing goals in half of them and making over 2 saves per game. Still has a ton of room to grow and will probably end up being similar to Mardones in skill, it'll be nice to have them both at my disposal.
3. Luis Pavez - 26 years old, Colo Colo, 4 caps, 0 goals.
A late bloomer, Pavez came into the National Team spectre after Juan Cornejo's departure from La U led to less playing time in Estudiantes de la Plata. Pavez is a cemented first teamer for Colo Colo, a solid fullback with both offensive and defensive capabilities and as we don't have a ton of players in the position, he has emerged as a great asset to have.
4.- Luis Pino - 21 years old, Universidad de Chile, 19 caps, 0 goals.
One of the top young players in the continent, the La U fullback is a terrific defensive player, who has developed his attacking game becoming a complete player who has been the NT starter since a couple of seasons now. A surefire candidate to surpass the hundred-cap mark down the road, Pino's future screams of European football but there hasn't been true interest from teams, except a couple of minor press stories.
16.- Miiko Albornoz - 31 years old, Hannover, 49 caps, 2 goals.
Another player who has been a big part of most of this game, despite never becoming a full time starter for long. In a weak position for us, the left back role, he has always been there for us, featuring in almost all callups, while the other alternatives, Mena, Cornejo, Pavez, more often than not starters, have rotated a bit.
14.- Camilo Rodríguez - 27 years old, Colo Colo, 10 caps, 0 goals.
Another Colo Colo late bloomer, Rodríguez has been our alternative RB for a while now, but has no chance of playing, unless something happens to Luis Pino, who's the starter at all costs. Rodríguez is a decent player, with the ability to play when needed, but isn't much more than a squad filler, really.
6.- Erick Pulgar - 28 years old, AS Roma, 64 caps, 1 goal.
Our defensive leader, Pulgar is one of our best players at the moment and our top valued player, at €32]M (we'll see what happens when Mardones leaves for Arsenal). A terrific ball playing defender, Pulgar has a great speed/strength mix, plus his 6'1" frame make him an huge asset on set pieces. Perennial starter for Roma, he played over 40 games last season, being the top defensive player of the team.
2.- Enzo Roco - 29 years old, Espanyol, 39 caps, 3 goals.
The prototypical towering CB, Roco is strong, tall (6'2") and surprisingly fast as well. Not much of a ball playing defender as Pulgar, but he can handle the ball as well and has been stellar for his club side, playing 53 games last season, including 19 UEFA Europa League games, en route to a 2nd place finish for them.
17.- Gary Medel - 34 years old, Inter Milan, 125 caps, 8 goals.
One of our legendary players, Medel is retiring right after the World Cup ends, which fuelled me to include him in the 23-man squad (his place would have gone to Igor Lichnovsky or Andrés Robles). Medel has been an amazing player for us, and still can hold his own, despite his physical abilities wearing down. He decided to retire in Italy, despite still having enough for him to come to Chile and play for one of the bigger teams.
13.- Andrés Díaz - 19 years old, Universidad de Chile, 3 caps, 0 goals.
One of our top prospects on the defensive front, and the youngest player in the squad, Díaz is a great centre back who can also be a defensive fullback on the right side. Built in a similar mold to Erick Pulgar, Díaz can become a leading player for the National Team, as he still has some room to grow and keep improving. Benfica, Barcelona and Real Madrid are on the trail of Díaz, but I'm not planning on selling him before he turns 21 (team policy), so he better stay happy here.
5.- Lorenzo Reyes - 30 years old, Betis, 36 caps, 2 goals.
Reyes is a great player who's always been around the NT, but has emerged as a top choice in the last couple of years, as the more defensive minded of our central midfield pairing. The former Huachipato player, has made a career in Seville, playing for Betis, where he's labeled a key player.
8.- Arturo Vidal - 35 years old, FC Bayern, 126 caps, 28 goals.
Another of our veteran leaders in his last dance, as Vidal, despite not retiring yet (his Bayern contract runs up now, but he won't retire), won't come back for another big tournament after this one. Vidal will be a starter for the team though, as his ability is still great, despite not being as quick as he once was, and we'll miss his experience and football once he's out of the team.
15.- Felipe Gutiérrez - 31 years old, FC Twente, 55 caps, 7 goals.
The Twente legend has been our 12th player for a while now, stepping in as a key sub in most of his 55 caps. Once again, he's into that role for us, specially covering Vidal as the team's midfield playmaker, when the veteran's fitness starts to diminish. Gutiérrez has been unfortunate to come into a crowded position, as we will miss a player like him down the road, when talented CM's aren't so frequent.
23.- Sebastián Martínez - 29 years old, Universidad de Chile, 18 caps, 1 goal.
A legend from my Universidad de Chile side, Martínez has spent his 11-year career with us, and currently serves as the team's captain and key central midfielder. Martínez is a decent utility player to have, as he's able to play both in attacking and defensive midfield roles, plus covering back in the defence as well.
22.- Luciano Cabral - 27 years old, Galatasaray, 49 caps, 8 goals.
Born in Argentina, but declared to play for Chile, Cabral has been around for a long time now, but has never really cemented his place as the starting #10 for the team, as he's usually relegated by Rabello, and now, when the latter is injured, we shift to a system without a nominal AM, choosing to play 2 forwards up top. He'll still be an important player for us, as we're looking to change play from time to time in games, to add a bit of creativity and flair.
7.- Alexis Sánchez - 33 years old, Real Madrid, 146 caps, 74 goals.
Numbers speak for themselves and it's an understatement to say that Alexis has been the most influential NT player in the country's history. True he's not the player he once was, and at 33 is starting to lose his spark, but the quality is still there and has at least a couple of years left in the tank at top international level. He's the top capped player and top goalscorer in the nation and is a first teamer at a stacked Real Madrid team, where he scored almost 20 goals last season. He has 1 year left there and we'll see what happens next.
10.- Guillermo Domínguez - 23 years old, Universidad de Chile, 13 caps, 2 goals.
Domínguez first made headlines when we at La U splashed around €7M including clauses to bring him to Estadio Nacional, and from there, his career skyrocketed, becoming a key player in the club and a full time starter on the National Side. Last season he broke records for assists (38) and average rating (8.26) and will surely move on from the club in the near future, but for now has no teams sniffing around.
21.- Eduardo Rojas - 24 years old, Universidad de Chile, 3 caps, 0 goals.
By the end of last season, Rojas was a player whose career was winding down, after a promising start at Cobreloa and Universidad de Concepción. The lefty winger fell out of consideration in his club side and they got relegated. That's when we at La U snooped him, for a mere €200k, and after a quick pre-season start, he got the starting role and played near 50 games for the side, scoring 30 goals and had 20 assists as well, including 9 goals in 8 Copa Libertadores games. His brilliant season propelled him to the National Team where he'll be a big substitute.
19.- Alan Calderón - 19 years old, Colo Colo, 2 caps, 1 goal.
Another U-20 prospect who got upgraded to the main squad for the World Cup, beating Eduardo Vargas on the process. Quick winger, with tons of potential to keep growing, he still hasn't earnt his place in the Colo Colo first team and is more of a rotation player for them. Unfortunately, I doubt he'll get near Dominguez in ability, in the end, but he'll be a useful player to have as a backup.
11.- Angelo Henríquez - 28 years old, Sporting CP, 61 caps, 32 goals.
Our top striker has had a shaky career and hasn't really taken off to the higher level. He found himself more on the bench than on the pitch last season in Lisbon and only played on 20 games. Once labeled the country's future up front, he never really lived up to that and struggled constantly on the club sides he played, except for a promising start at Lisbon, that eventually faded. He's still one of the top players for the NT and hopefully gets more playing time for his club.
9.- Fernando Pérez - 21 years old, Universidad de Chile, 4 caps, 2 goals.
The top young player in chilean football for the past year, Pérez became a full starter for La U this season and was brilliant in the role, scoring 43 goals. This peformance put him in the NT radar, and he's been quite great, scoring a couple of goals in his first caps, despite not being a starter, but in one of them. He will be a starter in the World Cup though, with us moving to a classic 4-4-2 shape and I expect Pérez to keep scoring and try to pose a threat to Alexis' record.
18.- Mathías Pinto - 23 years old, Vélez Sarsfield, 32 caps, 12 goals.
Pinto was another of the La U players who after moving on from the club have struggled a bit, in their new environment. Pinto moved to Argentina and in Velez he hasn't been fond of the nets, scoring just 10 goals in 30 games in two half seasons. He's still regarded as a decent NT player, despite him losing his starting spot a while ago.
We drew Turkey, the USA and Ghana in an affordable group, and I was confident we'd get by the expectations and get in the Second Round.
- Group Stage, game 1 - June 11th, 2022 - Chile vs. United States
We kicked off facing the United States and I really wanted to get a good result to start the campaign but in the end we were a bit nervous and failed to meet expectations. We were the better on the pitch, generating at least 3 clear chances, but Henríquez and Pérez each failed to score one. Just before halftime, Henríquez scored for us, but couldn't take advantage of the couple of chances we generated in the second half, and Julian Green ended up tying the game. Not a great start, but we'll have to manage.
Result: Chile 1 (Henríquez '40) - United States (Green '71)
Starting 11: Mardones; Pino, Pulgar, Roco, Pavez; Reyes, Vidal ('45 Gutiérrez), Domínguez, Alexis ('45 Rojas); Pérez, Henríquez ('45 Cabral).
- Group Stage, game 2 - June 16th, 2022 - Turkey vs. Chile
Against the most dangerous rival of the group, we were looking to make up for the points lost against the States and we took advantage of a brilliant start to make it happen. Just 3 minutes in, Angelo Henríquez scored the first for us and by '20, Alexis doubled our lead. We kept the ball and managed to generate more chances, but the game went to halftime like that. In the second half, we had another quick goal, this time by Eduardo Rojas. After that, Turkey had good chances, but Mardones was amazing, and in the end, Guillermo Domínguez closed the rout. A big win for us, against a good side.
Result: Turkey 0 - Chile 4 ('3 Henríquez, Alexis '20, Rojas '49, Domínguez '77)
Starting 11: Mardones; Pino, Pulgar, Roco, Pavez; Reyes ('45 Martínez), Vidal, ('45 Gutiérrez), Domínguez, Alexis ('45 Rojas); Pérez, Henríquez.
- Group Stage, game 3 - June 21st, 2022 - Ghana vs. Chile
With a hand on qualification, we needed to get a result to secure it and despite once again being the best team on the pitch, we didn't get the result we came to get. We rested most starters as fatigue was a big issue for us at this point. We got a few good chances, but Pinto was inaccurate with the ball on his feet. They gave us a big scare, putting ahead by '62, a result that left us out of the second round. Fortunately, we could rally up and get the equaliser via Angelo Henríquez at '78, which in the end, secured qualification for us.
Result: Ghana 1 ('62 Duncan) - Chile 1 (Henríquez '78)
Starting 11: Mardones; Rodríguez, Díaz, Roco, Albornoz; Martínez, Vidal ('45 Gutiérrez), Calderón, Cabral ('62 Henríquez), Alexis ('45 Rojas); Pinto.
We ended up being super lucky though, as Morocco had all the home field advantage and qualified as 1st placed with a perfect 3/3 wins,
- Second Round - June 25th, 2022 - Chile vs. Morocco
Tough challenge, despite on paper being the favourites, as the locals hadn't lost a single game yet and they were playing in Marrakesh, in front of 45,000 fans. But we played the best game of the tournament so far and completely dominated the locals, pushing them around and not allowing them anything. A quick brace from Pérez, another goal from Henríquez and a goal from Pulgar ended up setting the game and a ticket to the Quarter-Finals to face one of our familiar foes.
Result: Chile 4 (Pérez, '19, '34, Henríquez '40, Pulgar '83) - Morocco 0
Starting 11: Mardones; Pino, Pulgar, Roco, Albornoz ('45 Pavez); Reyes, Vidal ('45 Gutérrez), Dominguez, Alexis ('54 Rojas); Pérez, Henríquez.
- Quarter-Finals - July 1st, 2022 - Chile vs. Argentina
Another faceoff with our biggest rivals, despite they don't take us as seriously as we do. The game kicked off with us being the aggresive side and Argentina being the more cautious, and the approach landed us a great goal from Pérez at '17. After that, we had to endure a bit of a storm and Argentina had a couple of good chances, that Mardones and Pulgar cleared. The second half kept very tight and no team was better than the other, but after 10 minutes of Argentinean domination, José Mauri found the equaliser at '73. We pushed harder and found another goal, via Felipe Gutiérrez at '80, but they fought back and Roberto Pereyra forced the extra time with just a couple of minutes left in the clock. With a fatigued team, I feared we weren't gonna make it, but Fernando Pérez scored at '105+1 to give us the advantage. In the second extra time, we managed to hold on to the lead and beat the Argentineans, putting ourselves in the World Cup Semifinals!
Result: Chile 3 (Pérez '17, '105+1, Gutiérrez '80) - Argentina 2 (Mauri '73, Pereyra '88)
Starting 11: Mardones; Pino, Pulgar, Roco ('66 Díaz), Albornoz; Reyes ('66 Martínez), Vidal ('66 Gutiérrez), Domínguez, Alexis; Pérez, Henríquez.
- Semifinals - July 5th, 2022 - Chile vs. France
In a bit of a grudge match, we faced France in the semifinals, with a team based off the team that lost to the French in the Olympic Games, a couple of years back (9 players who played on that semifinal are a part of this World Cup squad), so we really wanted the win, not only to advance to the World Cup Final, but also to get back at them. Things started off great, as Angelo Henríquez scored at '5, but Martial equalised right away. A mere 5 minutes after, Pérez was hacked inside the penalty area and the ref gave the penalty that Vidal changed for a goal and right before halftime Henríquez completed his brace and left us up by two goals at halftime. We felt in the final and had really dominated the game, but still there were 45 minutes to play and things could go south quickly. We kept pushing in the second half, and limited France to counter attacking. At '78 Martial took a rebound and managed to get them close, but fortunately, Cabral found our fourth goal of the game at '86, sealing the game for us.
Result: Chile 4 (Henríquez '5, '42, Vidal pen '11, Cabral '86) - France 2 (Martial '6, '78)
Starting 11: Mardones; Pino ('45 Medel), Pulgar, Díaz, Albornoz; Martínez, Vidal, Domínguez ('45 Calderón), Alexis; Pérez ('45 Cabral), Henríquez.
- Final - July 10th, 2022 - Chile vs. Turkey
So, it's the World Cup Final and we face off against our group mates, Turkey, whom we comfortably beat 4-0 in the group stage. Naturally, I was feeling very confident, and might have though about the Cup before the game started. Tragic mistake, as alwaysas we were completely dominated by a Turkish side who really were the better team in the most important game of both countries' history. They put us on our back heel pressing our build-up and took the ball away from us, and found an early goal from Tuncer at '13. We never really recovered from the blow and ended up with 9 men due to our own lack of concentration. When the game was ending and we were all out attack, Tuncer found his second goal and buried us under ground.
Result: Chile 0 - Turkey 2 (Tuncer '13, '87)
Starting 11: Mardones; Pino, Pulgar, Roco, Pavez; Reyes, Martínez ('54 Gutiérrez), Domínguez ('65 Cabral), Alexis; Pérez, Henríquez.
Our good showing wasn't unnoticed by the media and we got in several award discussions, including.
- Golden Ball: 1.- Neymar (Brazil) 2.- Angelo Henríquez (Chile) 3.- Søren Johansen (Denmark).
- Golden Boot: 1.- Neymar (Brazil, 7 goals, 5 games) 2.- Martial (7 goals, 7 games) 3.- Søren Johansen (6 goals, 4 games).
- Best Young Player: Søren Johansen (Denmark).
- Best Goalkeeper: David Ospina (Colombia)
- Dream Team: Ospina (Colombia), Mustafa (Turkey), Paulo Oliveira (Portugal), Stones (England), Azat (Turkey), Coman (France), Bernardo (Portugal), Çalhanoğlu (Turkey), Neymar (Brazil), Johansen (Denmark), Henríquez (Chile).
Amongst the reserve Dream Team players, we had 3 La U players, Pino, Domínguez and Pérez, plus Pulgar as well.
C-H-I, CHI! L-E, LE! CHI CHI CHI, LE LE LE, VIVA CHILE!
- Well, it just wasn't meant to be. We reached our top historical performance, topping the 1962 3rd place, but still we're looking for our first World Cup.
- The Board was delighted with our participation and I was really happy as well, specially beating two strong teams in France and Argentina. But losing the Final to a beatable team, really hurt. We need to be stronger come 2026 and give it another go.
- From the World Cup squad, Medel, and Toselli won't be coming back for the 2023 Copa America and Vidal's chances look slim. Alexis is still in pretty good shape and will probably be up for the torunament. Come 2026, that list will include probably the 4 mentioned, plus Felipe Gutiérrez, Miiko Albornoz and Lorenzo Reyes, who'll be 35. Roco and Martínez will be 33, while Pulgar, Henríquez and Cabral, 32. Finally, Rodríguez and Pavez, will be 31 and 30. We're pretty much a young side so the great performance is surely encouraging, but we'll need to sort out a few things to be in top form come next World Cup.
- Currently we stand on 3rd place in the FIFA Rankings, but will probably rise to the 1st place after this great tournament.
I missed a club update, for the 2021-22 season, but I won't do it, as I overwrote the save. When I update the 2022-23 season (I'm at the start of it), I'll do a short recap for the missing season, sorry about that lads.