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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Ecuador 3-1 Chile – Borghi’s experimental formation fails in Quito

Even though there is still 8 games to play, last night’s 3-1 demolition – let’s be honest it was a demolition– handed out by Ecuador felt like seeing your prized Ferrari mis-handled in the garage by a mechanic before your own eyes, prompting the feeling that you may never see it in all its glory again, until a new mechanic is brought in to fix it.

There’s a popular feeling that Borghi, spanner in hand, is slowly dismantling a promising side before eventually replacing his spanner for a sledgehammer and obliterating Chile’s Ferrari.

The Chile that people fantasise and reminisce about were nowhere to be seen: the eclectic movements; defenders attacking; attacker defending; the frantic football that left your head in a spin, yet you wanted to see more and more. And more.

People have to remember it is no longer Marcelo Bielsa’s team. It’s Claudio ‘Bichi’ Borghi’s. But the marriage they didn’t want to end did. Reluctantly, they have had a new partner for a while now and they want it to end. Quick.

Despite taking the lead through a ridiculous own goal, Chile never looked comfortable and were soon pegged back through Felipe Caicedo. The same player made it 2-1 after Pablo Contreras was shown a second yellow for bringing down Ibarra in the box; the penalty was missed but Caicedo netted the rebound. Segundo Castillo completed a score line that could, and should, have been more convincing.

So what exactly happened:

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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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