World Cup 2014 – Chile’s Chances
It’s five months until the FIFA World Cup – and Chile appears to have a good chance of making it, according to international pundits. Australians are morose at the prospect of their national team facing Chile’s excellent team in the first round. However, Chile’s own coach has expressed reservations about the chances his team has of winning the competition. Are they justified?
A Respectable Group
The group in which Chile finds itself contains some stiff competition. Group B comprises Chile, the Netherlands, Australia, and Spain. The Chilean team will find itself hard pressed against the formidable Spanish team, who currently holds the World Cup title, and the Netherlands – who played against Spain in the last World Cup final. The Netherlands are an extremely strong team, playing a pragmatic and highly tactical game – although team politics and internal strife could work against them. Australia is not deemed to present such a challenge. Indeed, many Australians despaired when the grouping was announced, dreading having to pit their strengths against the might of Chile, Spain, and the Netherlands. However, Australia should not be dismissed out of hand. Their defense is tough, and they are determined.
Chile faces Australia first, and a loss in this match could really turn the tables for both teams. It would give Australia the psychological boost they need to carry them through what many are terming the ‘Group of Death’, and would put Chile in a poor position to face its other strong opponents. However, it must be remembered that Chile is considered one of the top 20 teams in the world, while Australia is not. It is thus hoped that Australia will not present too much of a problem – leaving Chile fresh to face the other two teams, who will require a skilled and relentless game if a win is to be secured.
The Curse of Pele
Opinion regarding Chile’s chances of winning the entire competition is mixed. The great Pele has spoken out in favor of Chile, announcing the Chilean team among his top tips for this year’s World Cup. However, this may not be the confidence-booster it at first appears. Pele is infamous for the inaccuracy of his predictions. He predicted Colombia to win the World Cup in 1994 and Spain to win in 1998. Both teams were eliminated in the first round.
Undeterred, Pele went on to predict that Argentina and France would play each other in the 2002 World Cup final. Once again, both teams left after the first round. In 2002, he predicted that Brazil would not make it past the group stages. In accordance with Pele prediction tradition, Brazil naturally went on to win the entire competition. So Chilean fans should perhaps not rejoice about Pele’s enthusiasm for their team’s chances. Chile’s coach, Argentinean Jorge Sampaoli, has expressed reservations about Chile’s World Cup chances – a curious move for one supposedly coaching his team to victory. However, his words may have an ulterior motive.
Keeping The Pressure Off
The Chilean people have every reason to be optimistic about their chances. The Chilean World Cup team comprises an absolutely stunning cast of athletes, who have already proven themselves world-class players able to pit themselves against the game’s finest. Alexis Sánchez is a forward on the best possible form, Arturo Vidal is one of the most sought-after midfielders in the world, and Jorge Valdivia is reputed to be one of the two most naturally gifted footballers on the planet (the other being Diego Maradona).
Sampaoli himself is a brilliant coach who has formed the team into a footballing force to be reckoned with. It is likely that Sampaoli’s cautious words stem more from a desire not to get hopes feverishly high rather than actual pessimism. Sampaoli is known for his ‘holistic’ method of football coaching, believing that a freedom and joy in playing enhances performance – and is perhaps concerned that over-inflated national hopes would put undue psychological pressure on his players.
Chile is also likely to benefit from the climactic advantages of playing on their home continent. Since other players will have jet lag and need to acclimate. Although Chile must travel hundreds of miles into Brazil, they need not endure lengthy intercontinental flights, and are likely to be far more accustomed to the climate prevalent in Brazil than many of their foreign opponents will be. The team should also have the advantage of an increased fanbase, given the relative ease of getting from Chile to Brazil – although it should be remembered that football fans the world over are extremely dedicated and determined when it comes to following their national team.
Football lovers from all over the globe will be flooding into Brazil, no matter the obstructions in their way. People from football-mad nations like England are currently putting together travel plans, despite living thousands of miles away from Brazil. Websites like Money.co.uk are helping out cash-strapped English football fans by offering money-saving tips designed to allow England’s followers to “fit in the maximum football for the minimum cost”, meaning that Chile may not experience a significant increase in supporters compared to other teams. Nonetheless, tickets to see Chile play were gone in minutes: Chilean fans show every indication of taking advantage of Brazil’s proximity, and providing packed out stadia to cheer on their team.
Whether or not Brazil is prepared for this enormous influx of football fans is a moot point. Brazilian authorities have approved a further 1,974 flights in preparation for the deluge of football lovers about to descend upon the country, and President Dilma Rousseff is considering measures to prevent Brazilian airlines from abusing their position and hiking their prices – so getting into the country itself should not pose too much of a problem. However, concerns remain about Brazil’s infrastructure.
Despite promises to have a World Cup ready infrastructure in place by last year, many works are still in progress – and that progress is slow. So slow, in fact, that FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke grumbled in March that Brazil needed a “kick up the backside” if the country was to be ready on time. However, such grumbles have died away since then, so it is to be assumed that Brazil is knuckling down to the challenge, and will hopefully be able to accommodate and transport the worldwide legions of football fans by the time the competition comes around.
A Very Exciting Prospect
Whatever the final result, this World Cup promises to be one of the most thrilling to date for Chile. The team is spectacular, the venues superb, and the group in the first round is very exciting indeed. With only a few months to go until the competition, World Cup fever is heating up – and Chileans are beginning to feel that first tingle of exhilaration as they contemplate the challenge ahead.