Jorge Ormeno celebrates scoring Santiago Wanderers’ winner (img: charlatecnica.cl)
Week 15 took on an unusual look due to local elections in Chile, meaning no games on Sunday. So instead we had games spread over four three days; Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Monday (I’ll get to that at the end). However it did not detract from the importance of the third last round of fixtures with relegation, relegation play-off and play-off places all still up in the air; a feature of the Primera División, with only 17 games in each tournament the league table always remains close.
There were a number of surprises as the top three were all defeated, including Colo Colo, allowing Palestino to nip in and overtake the aforementioned Colo Colo, Deportes Iquique and Rangers to the top of the table.
In the middle of the Clausura, in the scrap for a play-off place, little changed in the way of position but in terms of closeness the competition for places is at boiling point with nine teams separated by four points with three places realistically up for grabs.
At the bottom it is tight but with only five teams realistically involved; four points separating the five teams.
South America is a haven for football scouts from all across Europe and further afield. Cast your gaze across European football’s landscape and most clubs posses a South American playing a prominent role in their team. Barcelona and Lionel Messi, Manchester City and Sergio Agüero, Napoli and Edison Cavani AC Milan and Thiago Silva to name but a few.
And one South American nation, more than most, are making extra room for scouts as interest in their players increase. But it is not the traditional giants of Brazil and Argentina or even Uruguay who have achieved so much with such a sparse population. It is Chile. The land of Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamarano, the Andes and Atacama, Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile.
It is a breeding ground of talented – and temperamental – footballers. The success of the Chilean national team in the last few years and more recently Universidad de Chile has brought attention to the world’s longest country. And within it there are a number of talented footballers waiting to break-out and join Mauricio Isla, Mauricio Pinilla, Alexis Sánchez, Arturo Vidal, Jean Beausejour, Sebastián Pinto and more in the epicentre of football.
Can Perez guide Colo Colo to the last-8? (image: ferplei.com)
It doesn’t feel that long ago I was penning the Apertura preview on the back of a wonderful year for Universidad de Chile and Chileans in general, at home and abroad. Sixteen match-days later and we find ourselves looking towards week 17; after which the play-offs between the top eight sides commence.
Of the eight play-off spots available five have been confirmed – Universidad de Chile, O’Higgins, Deportes Iquique, Universidad Católica and Unión Española – before the ‘regular’ season concludes. The remaining three spots are currently being occupied by Cobreloa, Huachipato and Colo Colo. However Unión La Calera, Santiago Wanderers, Universidad de Concepción and Audax Italiano can all, however unlikely, claim a place that will extend their season by at least two games.
Out of the seven teams who cling to the hope of prolonging their season some have been in and around the upper echelons of the Primera Divisón all year, others have drifted in and out of a play-off place, Concepción have crept into the fold unnoticed while a couple looked to have little chance four weeks ago.
Universidad de Concepcion v O'Higgins (image: purofutbol.cl)
Universidad de Chile followed up their midweek win against Cobreloa with a 3-1 triumph against Cobresal to join O’Higgins at the summit of the Apertura. The Rancagua outfit have been going strong under new manager Eduardo Berizzo, unbeaten in four to place ahead of La U on goal difference with 13 points each.
Colo Colo continued their miserly form in front of goal escaping from Valparaíso with a point after Santiago Wanderers missed two penalties. There were wins for Santiago rivals Unión Española and Universidad Católica who consolidate their positions in the play-offs.
Audax Italiano finally broke their duck away at Deportes Iquique with a 2-1 win, leaving Cobresal as the only side yet to collect a first win of the season which cost Luis Musrri his job.
The tumultuous start to the Chilean Apertura continued as four teams picked up their first win of the season, Universidad de Chile suffered a heavy defeat in Rancagua, Colo Colo were booed off again and TRO keeps getting things wrong.
However a win still eludes Audax Italiano (and Cobresal) despite remaining highly watch-able. This time they were out-done by a Daniel Carreno’s Palestino who have been unlikely to have to wait until the fifth week to collect their first win. But from the game question marks still persist over the way Omar Labruna sets up his Audax side.
Elsewhere it was Cobreloa’s turn to occupy top spot after a comprehensive 3-0 success away at Rangers. Their sheer consistency has been enough to put them above everyone else, despite having played one game less.
The Santa Laura comes under attack (image: ilovechile.cl)
My Primera División output has been poor of late due to my lack of internet access which means I have seen little from the last two weekends. So here is a quick round-up of the last couple of week’s action where there have been two rounds of league fixtures, the Copa Libertadores and a Chile friendly.
Goals were more forthcoming in week 2 as Clausura finalists Universidad de Chile and Cobreloa kicked off their Apertura seasons with wins. But both are left looking upwards at Unión Española who continue their thrilling start to the season. A fine individual performance from Mauro Díaz was part of a fabulous team performance as they pummelled Cobresal.
La U struggled to break down La Serena on Saturday evening until the introduction of new boy Raúl Ruidíaz at half-time. Colo Colo also collected their first win of the season while Universidad Católica endure their poor away form which blighted their Clausura campaign.
Santiago Wanderers, Palestino, Audax Italiano and Antofagasta all got of the mark.
With the Clausura’s top two – Universidad de Chile and Cobreloa – not in action there was a chance for one of the contenders to lay down an early marker as Santiago inhabitants looked to escape the baking heat which had swept the capital.
However Colo Colo were booed off at home to Deportes Iquique – who had new signing Edson Puch impressing on his debut – while Universidad Católica recovered from an insipid first half performance to collect three points. There was better news for Union Española who added to their first round first-leg Coap Libertadores win with maximum points.
The two promoted teams enjoyed mix fortunes back in the Primera.
The closing stages of the Primera División are well and truly underway as four teams were eliminated over the weekend, setting up a Clásico Universitario semi-final and potential ‘El Clásico’ final, while Cobreloa – the only non-Santiago team in the last four – will be happy to just be there after an almighty scare at home to Unión La Calera, leaving it late to confirm their place.
Universidad de Chile won. Again. Colo Colo took care of an elementary second-leg and Audax Italiano floundered when it mattered.
In an explosive opening to the Clausura play-offs three of the four games went the way of the positional seeding with three away wins. The only home win coming from Universidad Católica who, despite finishing below Audax Italiano, were arguably favourites to win through to the semi-finals. It is looking likely that three of the four semi-final places will be taken by the three Santiago Giants.
Saturday saw a glut of goals as 12 were scored in the two games while on Sunday the two encounters were tight and tentative, both away teams winning a goal to nil.