Chile win guarantees a playoff spot at least for World Cup 2014

By Staff
Published On : Sat, Sep 7th, 2013

“La Roja” dominates throughout in a 3-0 victory over Venezuela that takes the team to third in the South American qualifiers for tournament in Brazil.

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Chile’s Alexis Sánchez evades Venezuelan defenders in "La Roja’s" 3-0 win Friday. Sánchez was unstoppable in the game’s second half. Photo by Cat Allen/ EyeSpyCat 2013

An irrepressible Chilean side rolled over Venezuela on Friday night, scoring three unanswered goals and ensuring, at the very worst, a playoff spot on the road to Brazil in 2014.

With eight wins out of ten games in charge, Jorge Sampaoli now has the best start of any “La Roja” manager in history. Another record — four straight wins in CONMEBOL qualifying — took his team to third place on 24 points, above Ecuador who fell to Colombia on Friday.

In South America, the top-four teams qualify automatically for the World Cup, while fifth spot has a chance at a berth via a playoff against Asia’s fifth place finisher. Uruguay currently occupies the playoff position, having beaten Peru 2-1 away Friday night.

“More than the result, value came from the way we played against a tough opponent,” Sampaoli said after the match. “With these players we can do great things.”

Venezuela can indeed prove tricky opposition, and few expected the visitors to be so comprehensively overwhelmed. Chilean keeper Claudio Bravo left the pitch without a grass stain, while Venezuela’s fullbacks ran most of the game backwards, as Eduardo Vargas and an electrifying Alexis Sánchez bore down on them time and time again .

Before kick-off, anticipation surrounded Jorge Valdívia, who was making his first start since his banishment from “La Selección” under Claudio Borghi. The mercurial playmaker delivered in spades, adding guile and invention in midfield and creating the first goal. Outside of goal celebrations, the biggest cheer of the night was directed at the Palmeiras player when he was exchanged for Jean Beausejour in the second half. After praising him, Sampaoli later said he felt the player was only functioning at 60 percent — a scary prospect for future opposition.

Fans at Estadio Nacional still seemed on a high from Chile’s crushing defeat of Iraq — yet another Sampaoli record — and Mexican waves swept through the stadium as “La Roja” pressed from the first whistle. Goal one came in the 11th minute — Valdivia lofted a ball over the backline to find Vargas who jinked away from his marker to score his sixth goal of the year in a red jersey.

A short period of complacency followed the goal, and the Chilean defense was caught off-guard by a Venezuelan counter. Striker José Rondon was guilty of a shocking miss, and the close call jolted the home team to life.

Valdivia and Arturo Vidal ran rings around the Venezuelans in the final third, and constant pressure peaked with a corner on the half hour mark. Vidal leapt to meet Marcelo Díaz’s delivery — the Juventus man’s header was saved by Daniel Hernández, though the keeper could not prevent defender Marcos González from turning in the rebound to make it 2-0.

Chile was set ablaze after the restart. Hernández somehow kept out a venomous drive from Vargas, and Sánchez was inches away with a volley. The Venezuelans welcomed the respite of halftime.

After the break, a rare foray forward from the visitors ended in a goal disallowed for offsides. The bitter ruling was then followed by the Alexis Sánchez show.

The talented forward has often been maligned for selfishness and poor decision making. In this match, he was one-track minded in his desire to provide for his team. He tore up the sod on the right flank, delivering crosses and unleashing colleagues. The biggest criticism that could be made of Chile’s game was the wasteful use of Sánchez’s prolific service.

The player’s efforts did eventually pay off in the 85th minute. The Barcelona forward’s scooped assist was the second ball in a delightful one-two with Arturo Vidal.

Chile heads to Colombia on Oct. 11 and hosts Ecuador on Oct. 15 in its two remaining qualifiers. Brazil beckons, and if the Chileans keep playing in this fashion they are sure to be favorites among neutrals as they were in South Africa three years ago.

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By Angus McNeice (mcneice@santiagotimes.cl)?
Copyright 2013 – The Santiago Times

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