Chile 1-2 Argentina – La Roja couldn’t turn their explosive start into goals against ruthless La Albiceleste

Pace, width, relentless pressing; Qualities that had been missing in Chile’s fall to Ecuador in the previous match. But against Argentina the Chile of old was evident, right down to the defensive deficiencies that ultimately cost La Roja a crucial point (or three) in the race to qualify for Brazil 2014.

The opening 45 minutes were chaotic and frantic, 100mph and end-to-end; football on amphetamines. Chile attacked, Argentina attacked, Chile attacked, Chile attacked, Argentina attacked and so on. It was one of those games I feared to look away to make notes on the match without missing anything.

Yet, even after such an explosive and positive opening Chile ended the game pointless, undone by their profligacy and Argentina’s ruthlessness. La Roja had chances, good chances, to go in front through Gary Medel, Sebastián Pinto and Mark González, but were hit by two sucker-punches before half-time; a coolly taken Lionel Messi goal and a ferocious individual goal from Gonzalo Higuaín.

Borghi’s side tried to find a way back into the game in the second half but could not break down an obdurate Argentina defence until it was too late.

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Off-field Issues Disturb Build-up to Crucial Qualifiers. Standard.

Problems for Borghi again . . .

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’.

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Chile 4-2 Peru

Two minutes. That is all it took for Chile to put Friday’s defeat to Argentina behind them and kick-start the long road to Brazil 2014 with a manic 4-2 win over Andean rivals Peru – providing the perfect tonic for an ill Claudio Borghi. Defensive errors that plagued the team in the 4-1 defeat to La Albiceleste were still evident and show no sign of being eradicated but further forward La Roja continue to exhilarate and excite.

Eduardo Vargas – who was one of three Chilean changes from Friday – gave La Roja a dynamic presence in attack troubling Peru with his direct runs and pace while the combination of Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal in the midfield provide a solid base with bite – defensively and offensively. Then there is ‘El Mago’ himself, Jorge Valdivia. He truly is the magician, his feet wands linking midfield and attack, disappearing and reappearing at the right times.

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PREVIEW – Argentina v Chile

Despite problems in defence and the absence of Alexis Sánchez’s star quality Chile will be hoping to catch Argentina cold in Buenos Aires on Friday as La Albiceleste enter a period of transition under yet another manager. 

The race to Brazil 2014 starts now – Friday to be precise – for the South American qualifiers. Since Brazil automatically qualify as hosts it leaves the remaining nine countries playing for four and a half slots – the half being the country that finishes 5th, who will enter a two-legged play-off contest against a country from the Asian Football Confederation.

With over half of the competing countries potentially joining Brazil at the World Cup in under three years time it is shaping up to be the most competitive qualifying process in South American history, especially when you consider that countries such as Ecuador and Venezuela are no longer considered whipping boys, while Peru are much improved after a fabulous performance at the Copa América.

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