Argentina 4-1 Chile – 5 ‘Observations’

It wasn’t the start to World Cup qualifying for Brazil 2014 Chile had in mind; falling behind early on did not seem to deter La Roja but a second goal before half-time and when Chile were enjoying a period of domination all but ended the contest. Here is a belated review of some talking points from the game on Friday:

1.    Claudio Borghi got it wrong

As admirable as it was to state that “we will attack” Argentina from the beginning and setting his team up in a 3-3-2-2 (ish) formation – which included two wing-backs, two ‘No 10s’ and two strikers – Borghi got it wrong. Simple as that. With injuries in defence robbing ‘Bichi’ (Borghi’s nickname) of Pablo Contreras and Osvaldo González there was a required shifting of personnel and a vital midfield component, Arturo Vidal, to the backline. The back three should have been given greater protection than a sole midfield holder (Carlos Carmona), flanked by two wing-back-cum-wingers.

Rather than make the team more attacking Borghi should have looked for a solution that would have given his starting eleven more balance. As fantastic and exciting as they are to watch – which they were for spells in the game – a more pragmatic approach would have given them a better chance of coming away from Buenos Aires with a positive result. It did not need radical changes. Simply dropping one of the two strikers or ‘No 10s’ and replacing them with a central midfielder who could combine both attacking and defensive duties would have helped stop Chile from being so susceptible to the counter-attack led by Ángel Di María, Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuaín. That player was in the team but played out of position; Arturo Vidal.

2.    Alexis Sánchez was a big miss

A pretty obvious conclusion. Who wouldn’t miss their best player? A player who Barcelona paid £23m for in the summer to supplement their gifted attacking options? The availability of Sánchez may have prompted an alternative shape but either way Chile missed his dynamism and pace in the final third. Humberto Suazo is an intelligent striker and a true goal threat in a Chile shirt, Mauricio Pinilla offers a physical presence, ability in the air and is adept with his back to goal while Jorge Valdivia on his day is a playmaking genius, wonderful awareness of everything around him, seeing passes others can’t. But what they all have in common is a lack of blistering pace, with and without the ball.

Chile had a lot of possession in Argentina’s half but on approach to the box a struggle to create meaningful chances ensued. Sánchez can drift by one, two, three players in minimal space, creating openings in the box. He can pull wide, go in behind or link centrally. When space was at a premium Chile needed Sánchez.

3.    It’s not about how much possession you have but what you do with the possession that counts

A 4-1 defeat seems like a comprehensive score line but looking back Chile had control of the game for the majority of the first half. Yet went into the break trailing 2-0. It was reminiscent of Universidad Católica’s defeat at home to Argentines Vélez Sársfield in the Copa Sudamericana. UC saw an abundance of the ball but failed to make it count. The Argentine’s have taught the Chilean’s what it is to be clinical.

That’s not to say chances weren’t created. Just that Mariano Andújar in the Argentine goal wasn’t worked sufficiently in relation to the possession Chile enjoyed in the final third. For a large spell of the first half Chile looked like the home team, setting the tempo of the match but were hit by a sucker punch of a second goal which took the wind out of the team.

4.    Positives

Yes there were some. Not least the confidence Chile have in their ability to pass the ball, quickly and sharply. From defence to attack.  When the ball is at the back it makes for some nervy moments as Waldo Ponce, Gonzalo Jara and Vidal zipped the ball about to one and other under pressure and going across goal. In doing so they encourage the opposition to come out and close down so when they do play their way out it gives the midfield and attack more space to play in.

Then there is Jorge Valdivia. On his day a wonderful player to watch. Incredibly confident in his own ability he can make a 40-yard cross field pass look as simple as a 5-yard sideway pass. In the right state of mind and free of injury he is a valuable option for La Roja. He showed in glimpses against Argentina of what he is capable of. In the first half alone he won countless free-kicks, simply because he thinks and sees things quicker than those defending him, coupled with the fact he possess a great range of movements which helps get him away from opposition players who are quicker.

5.     Back to Chile to face Peru

Peru travel to the Estadio Monumental in Santiago on Tuesday evening in what is shaping up to be a massive game for La Roja, even this early on. The Guaraní come into the game on the back of a fabulous 2-0 home victory over Copa America finalists Paraguay. Peru has clearly kicked on from their successful run to the semi-finals of the Copa. And now with Juan Manuel Vargas, Paolo Guerrro, Jefferson Farfán and Claudio Pizarro all in the squad they have a superb array of attacking talent. Pace, power, guile; you name it that four collectively possess it.

Chile need to start to turn their possession into goals if they’re to not to fall behind at this early stage in a shorter and more competitive qualification process for Brazil 2014.

Universidad de Chile defender Marco González may come into the backline while Gary Medel comes back into contention after serving his suspension picked up in the Copa America. Even though they are back on home turf a more balanced team has to be selected. Chile will have the majority of possession therefore will need to be wary of the counter-attack. Bringing Medel into midfield and/or Vidal will be a massive boost to the spine of the team. And as mentioned Chile need to show a ruthless streak in front of goal. Whether it is from Valdivia’s threaded passes to Suazo or Isla’s crosses for Pinilla to attack or even a start for Eduardo Vargas Chile need to score more than one to win.

For a more insightful and in-depth analysis of Argentina 4-1 Chile head over to the excellent Zonal Marking.

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