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Chile looks to Copa América as Brazil ends World Cup dreams once again

Chile looks to Copa América as Brazil ends World Cup dreams once again

Posted by Dubraswka Aguilar on June 30, 2014

The distraught face of defensive hardman Gary Medel weeping uncontrollably will linger in Chile’s footballing consciousness for years to come.

It typified a day in which Chile was knocked out of the World Cup by Brazil for the fourth time, but which coach Jorge Sampaoli and the country’s most talented generation of soccer players will now try to use to foster a champion’s mentality in a team historically given towards defeatism against bigger opponents.

“I’m not happy. We gave everything we had and we were up against a whole stadium, against the hosts and we didn’t go through,” Sampaoli said after the match. “I hope that the pain that we’re feeling right now becomes something else in the future. With time we’ll look at it differently and we’ll come to appreciate what this team has done.”

While Brazil goes on to play Colombia in the quarterfinals of this World Cup, for Chile that future begins with the 2015 Copa América, which it hosts. “La Roja” will enter that tournament on the back of a World Cup campaign in which it beat Australia and the defending champions Spain, and outplayed Brazil for large parts of Saturday’s match before falling in a penalty shootout.

“Of the four teams we played against, three were big teams. And we were never the lesser team,” captain and keeper Claudio Bravo said.

Ultimately, Chile were defeated by the same opponent which dumped it out of South Africa 2010, France 1998 and Chile 1962. But the result does not tell the whole story and “La Roja” put in a performance that was both brave and clinical — and it all could have been so different were it not for a handful of key moments which went went against the team.

A man-of-the-match performance from Julio César who saved two penalties and somehow blocked Charles Aránguiz’s shot on 64 minutes after a wonderful passage of short passes. Mauricio Pinilla’s strike which blasted into the crossbar a minute before the end of extra-time. That decisive penalty from Gonzalo Jara, which hit the inside of the right post and ricocheted across the face of the goal. On another day these moments could have gone the other way and Chile would have triumphed.

“It would have been the Mineirazo,” Sampaoli said, referring to Uruguay’s defeat of Brazil the last time it hosted the World Cup in 1950. “We would have made history forever.”

Other factors outside of his control went against the manager responsible for turning Chile into a feared outfit on the world stage.

Arturo Vidal’s campaign was hampered by knee surgery in May and, though he showed his class and his tremendous determination throughout, his time and effect on the pitch were limited.

Creative playmaker Jorge Valdivía was also hindered by injury and did not feature in the Brazil game, perhaps because of Medel’s injury — which forced him off the pitch after 108 minutes — obligated the manager to replace him with defender José Rojas.

But in his post-match analysis Sampaoli demonstrated that he is not likely to dwell on what could have been.

“I don’t think Brazil risked anything and they didn’t create many opportunities. We were able to neutralize Neymar, marking him so he couldn’t really benefit from any spaces,” he said. “But I don’t believe in moral victories. We didn’t get any points for that. We are no longer in the competition.

“Our players made history and they did their country proud. We had possession of the ball, we put in a lot of effort, we took more risks and we fought till the end. If that shot hadn’t hit the bar, then everything might have been different. But it wasn’t.”

Sampaoli’s contract with “La Roja” runs to 2018 but has a clause which allows him to leave if he receives another offer, which he surely will after what he did for Universidad de Chile and now the national team.

But National Soccer Association (ANFP) President Sergio Jadue has said he has a verbal agreement that Sampaoli will stay until the Copa América at least.

For Alexis Sánchez, Marcelo Díaz, Bravo, Aránguiz, Bravo, Vidal, Medel and the other heros of the World Cup 2014 campaign, this heartbreaking loss against Brazil will demonstrate that, on their day, they can beat the best teams in the world.

Chile is now praying that day will come in Santiago next July for the Copa América final.

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