As good as they are at playing high-intensity, exciting football, Chile are just as adept at shooting themselves in the foot; well the players certainly are. Once again Claudio ‘Bichi’ Borghi has had to contend with off-field problems only days before a crucial World Cup qualifying double-header against Uruguay and Paraguay.
The squad that will be looking to add to the three points gained from the first pair of fixtures is much changed from the one that was announced at the end of October after five players were excluded from selection.
Jorge Valdivia, Arturo Vidal, Jean Beausejour, Carlos Carmona and Gonzalo Jara were sent away from La Roja squad having arrived back 45 minutes late from the christening of one of Valdivia’s sons. There were rumours that some had alcohol on their breath but ‘Bichi’ only announced that the players were ‘not in a proper state’.
The decision to replace the players was taken instantly, showing that it does not matter if you are a star player or squad player there will be no toleration of indiscretions.
Today (Thursday) saw a press conference from four of the players, Beausejour, Valdivia, Carmona and Jara – with Vidal’s backing, to apologise for their actions but also to explain themselves. Beausejour read on account of the group and stated that there was alcohol intake but not an inadequate amount – Juventus claim Vidal was sober. Beausejour said there was no altercation with other team mates as had been reported but confirmed there was a meeting, something which they did not have with Borghi who, according to Valdivia, would not listen to them; turning down their advances twice. Borghi was stunned by that last point by Valdivia calling it “one of the most grotesque lies have been said against me.” With that ‘Bichi’ has declared the five players will not wear the national shirt again while he is in charge.
There will now be an investigation to establish the truth.
Borghi went to the Primera División to call-up recruits. The Universidad Católica quartet of Milovan Mirosevic, Felipe Gutiérrez, Francisco Silva and Fernando Meneses and Universidad de Chile captain José Rojas all joining the squad.
There was some surprise that neither of the Genoa duo, Felipe Seymour and Cristóbal Jorquera, were given the nod especially with Vidal one of those to have been released. Although there is the reasoning that it will be easier for players who are already in Chile to seamlessly fit into the squad.
This is not the first time the build-up to games has been affected by off-field issues, and certainly not the first time Valdivia has been involved. Only last month ‘El Mago’ and Beausejour were apparently in an ‘unsuitable’ state as they went out for breakfast a matter of days before the match with Argentina, which Chile lost 4-1.
This incident has only compounded Valdivia’s recent strife. Lately he has been pictured in an intimate moment outside a club with a woman who is not his wife while on the field with Palmeiras he was red-carded provoking a backlash from the Brazilian supporters. A run-down of Valdivia’s career misdemeanours would be enough to fill a book.
Even with all that he is undoubtedly a star player. He does not get the moniker ‘El Mago’ (The Wizard) for nothing. The playmaker brings fantasy onto the pitch and is wonderful to watch with the ball at his feet. His absence gives another playmaker of genuine quality to step into the spotlight; Matí Fernandez. The Sporting Lisbon fantanista can fit straight into the ‘no 10’ providing the ammunition for the strikers to fire.
Arguably the biggest miss for La Roja will be Arturo Vidal who looked to have created a dynamic and solid base with Gary Medel in the middle of the four man midfield against Peru. The Juventus player can cover an abundance of ground, supporting the forwards or protecting the defence. A defence that needs protecting.
Borghi is not without options to fill the vacant midfield position. Two stars from Universidad de Chile’s long unbeaten run are ready to fill in. Marcelo Díaz, the pocket midfield shield, will add solidity to the midfield, and should be of use in Montevideo while Charles Aránguiz would be a more like-for-like replacement for Vidal.
Beausejour was suspended for the Uruguay game so it was anticipated La U’s Eugenio Mena or Matías Campos Toro would take the Birmingham City player’s position on the left-hand side of midfield. Again, determining who to play depends on the game plan. With it being an away match it may call for Mena who has been in good form.
The team I’d choose to face Uruguay (Friday 2200 GMT) 3-4-1-2: Claudio Bravo; Osvaldo González, Pablo Contreras, Waldo Ponce; Mauricio Isla, Marcelo Díaz, Gary Medel, Eugenio Mena; Matías Fernandez; Humberto Suazo, Eduardo Vargas.
All that and no mention of Alexís Sanchez. The Barcelona forward was brought on as a substitute at the weekend against Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao but it could prove too risky to play him from the start especially when there is Vargas who is in such fine form, domestically and in the Copa Sudamericana.
As for Uruguay their press has been lapping up the recent events. One newspaper suggesting that they should send a gift to Valdivia’s son for his great service to the Uruguayan national team in inadvertently causing the exclusion of such important figures in the Chilean squad.
Before all that happened Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and midfielder Arevalo Rios had stern words for La Roja, stating that they should take care of the game first before talking, referring back to 1-1 draw in the Copa America.
If La Roja comes out of the two games with two negative results then there will be even greater scrutiny over the incidents which have taken place in the past few days. We certainly have not heard the end of it.
Revised squad to face Uruguay and Paraguay:
Claudio Bravo (Real Sociedad, Spain)
Miguel Pinto (Atlas, Mexico)
Luis Marín (O’Higgins)
Pablo Contreras (PAOK, Greece)
Osvaldo González (U . de Chile)
Waldo Ponce (Cruz Azul, Mexico)
Christian Vilches (Colo Colo)
José Rojas (Universidad de Chile)
Marcos González (U. de Chile)
Francisco Silva (Universidad Católica)
Felipe Gutiérrez (Universidad Católica)
Gary Medel (Sevilla, Spain)
Marcelo Díaz (U. de Chile)
Mauricio Isla (Udinese, Italy)
Charles Aránguiz (U. de Chile)
Fernando Meneses (Universidad Católica)
Matías Campos Toro (Audax Italiano)
Eugenio Mena (U. de Chile)
Matías Fernández (Sporting Lisbon, Portugal)
Milovan Mirosevic (Universidad Católica)
Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona, Spain)
Eduardo Vargas (U. de Chile)
Humberto Suazo (Monterrey, Mexico)
Gustavo Canales (Universidad de Chile) – replaced Mauricio Pinilla who suffered an back injury while playing for Palermo.
Esteban Paredes (Colo Colo)