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Chile: Five questions for the finalists

  • Did Chile deserve to beat Portugal in Wednesday’s semi-final?
  • Did La *Roja *achieve their attacking and defensive objectives?
  • Coach Juan Pizzi and three of his players give their views

By Diego Zandrino with Chile

Penalty-shootout winners over Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals, Chile claimed another scalp from the spot on Wednesday evening, overcoming Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the shoot-out that decided the first semi-final at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017.

While there is evidently more to Argentina and Portugal than their star players, these three hard-fought wins are proof that Chile’s current generation have learned how to approach such high-stakes encounters.

In analysing the victory that took La Roja into the final of Russia 2017, asks and answers five key questions.

1. Did Chile up their game from their previous match?
Yes. Operating as a unit once more and playing a precise passing game, La Roja controlled the pace of play, expending energy only when they needed to. Though tired by their exertions, the Chileans ended the game in good shape and pressed more convincingly for the winner than their opponents, with Pizzi using only three of his four substitutions.

*Juan Pizzi: “I think we deserved to win. We created more chances than them and better ones too, especially in extra time. It was hard to make changes because we were doing well and it might have upset our balance. We’re worthy finalists.” *

2. Did they meet their defensive objectives?
Yes. The Chileans cancelled out a fearsome attack led by the in-form Ronaldo. As well as cutting the supply to him, they forced him to drop uncomfortably deep. Pizzi’s men also covered well, dropping back whenever needed to prevent the Portuguese from creating opportunities.

*Jean Beausejour: “We won because we stuck to our usual game plan, which is to dictate the play and keep the ball, getting forward at the right times and taking the necessary precautions.” *

3. Did they meet their attacking objectives?
No. Once again Chile failed to translate their spells of domination into goals. While their opponents have had a part to play in that, the fact is that La Roja have managed just two goals in 300 minutes. That said, their determination to get forward allowed them to keep the ball away from their box and, by maintaining possession, take some well-earned breathers.

*Pizzi: “I’ll be more worried the day we don’t create any chances. Fortunately, we were right on target in the shoot-out.” *

4. Did their star players perform?
Yes. While Claudio Bravo excelled in the shoot-out, he also distinguished himself in normal and extra-time. Arturo Vidal covered virtually every blade of grass, and though Alexis Sanchez did not have the greatest of games, he did create one of his side’s best chances and tucked his penalty away. There needs to be a special mention also for one of Chile’s habitual unsung heroes, Charles Aranguiz, who did not put a foot wrong.

*Bravo: “Penalties are not a lottery. You have to work at them and there’s a lot of information and intelligence involved too, not to mention your own skills. I knew what I had to do, but we all did a great job in beating the European champions, which is no easy thing.” *

5. Is the so-called “Pinilla Syndrome” now a thing of the past?
Yes. On 28 June 2014, Chile faced FIFA World Cup™ hosts Brazil in the Round of 16, a match La Roja lost on penalties after Mauricio Pinilla had struck the crossbar with a minute of extra-time remaining. When Vidal struck the post on Wednesday two minutes from the end of extra-time and Martin Rodriguez hit the rebound against the crossbar, the South Americans could have been forgiven for casting their minds back to that fateful day at Brazil 2014. This time, however, the outcome was entirely different, an indication of the winning mindset of this Roja squad.

Vidal: “When things get tough, this team does what it’s always done and shows exactly what it’s made of: unity, commitment and good old Chilean heart.”

EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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