JOHANNESBURG - A quick look at the form
book might have Chile wondering if it is worth turning up for
their World Cup second round game against Brazil on Monday.
Chile have suffered an extraordinarily bad run against the
Brazilians in the last five years, losing seven matches in a row
and shipping 26 goals in the process.
The have also lost their only two World Cup meetings against
Brazil - 4-2 in the semi-finals at the 1962 World Cup, which
they hosted, and 4-1 in the second round at France in 1998.
Coach Marcelo Bielsa has revolutionised the team in his
three years in charge, transforming them from one of the worst
on the continent into one of the best, but even he knows they
face a huge task against the five-times world champions.
"The things that Brazil have done in the past exempts them
from any sort of comment," said the eccentric and enigmatic
"They are always a team to be feared and this latest version
preserves all the footballing attributes of the country and, in
addition, adds speed and ruthlessness."
Chile's losing sequence began with a 1-0 defeat in a Copa
America group match in 2004 followed by a 5-0 loss in a World
Cup qualifier the following year.
Two years later, Chile were beaten 4-0 in a friendly and
were thrashed twice at the Copa America, 3-0 in a group match
and 6-1 in the quarter-finals.
The latter humiliation caused the downfall of coach Nelson
Acosta who was replaced by Bielsa.
Although he orchestrated a spectacular improvement in
fortunes, he was unable to inspire his team to a win over Brazil
and they lost both World Cup qualifiers, 3-0 at home and 4-2
Brazil thrive against teams who attack them and Chile fit
the bill perfectly.
A fast, attacking but somewhat lightweight team, Chile tend
to be easy prey for the physically powerful Brazilians and, in
their enthusiasm to pour forward, leave gaps at the back which
are usually ruthlessly exploited by Brazil's forwards.
If that is not worrying enough, Chile will be without their
two regular defenders with Gary Medel and Waldo Ponce suspended.
Bielsa has to decide whether to field Humberto Suazo, who is
struggling for match fitness, up front or stick with Jorge
Valdivia, who played as a forward in the 2-1 defeat by Spain.
Felipe Melo is very doubtful for Brazil but that is unlikely
to be a problem for Dunga's team, whose squad is overflowing
with midfield spoilers.
Elano is fit to return on the right of midfield after
missing the last group match against Portugal with an ankle
Former World Player of the Year Kaka will also be back after
suspension and Robinho, rested for Friday's match with Portugal,
should play, adding much-needed creativity to a generally
lacklustre Brazilian team.
Brazil regularly complain that opponents shut up shop
against them but Chile's former Argentina boss Bielsa is a bold
coach and it is in his nature to send his teams onto the attack,
whoever they are facing.
He will, however, need to have a real surprise up his sleeve
if his side are going to upset the five-times champions.
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