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Chile to supply strong World Cup test for Germany

Chile to supply strong World Cup test for Germany

Posted by Juan Gavasa on March 05, 2014

"Swashbucklers," as the Webster's English dictionary definition goes, are "swaggering or flamboyant adventurers" - a popular label for pirates on the high seas, the term often pops up to describe football teams with that special swagger.

Historically, the World Cup hosts Brazil leap to mind as the archetypal, flamboyant Latin American exponents of the beautiful game - but they might just be upstaged on home turf by "The Red One," Chile. Many South American competitors familiar with the Chileans have tipped the team to be the continent's surprise package, courtesy of their intrusive combination of power and raw speed of play.

In recent years, the Chileans have won a reputation for innovative tactics and pleasing football - first through former coach Marcelo Bielsa, and now present boss Jorge Sampaoli.

The respected Times columnist Gabriele Marcotti wrote: "He (Sampaoli) seems to approach the game with a sort of ascetic, monk-like, messianic zeal that mirrors his life off the pitch."

Despite being a disciple of the "Bielsa way" - named after Chile's coach from 2007 to 2011, who implemented the team's popular style - Sampaoli's "messianic zeal" is still something of a step down from the wackiness of Bielsa himself, whose Spanish-language nickname is simply "El Loco."

Failed flirt with pragmatism

The base 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 formation Chile nominally employs is more use on paper than on the pitch. Like Bielsa before him, Sampaoli expects his players to adapt to the strengths and shape of their opponents, regularly rotate positions, and press high up the pitch when working against the ball.

There was an ill-fated interim to this swashbuckling style, during the first half of Chile's World Cup qualifying campaign under the stewardship of Claudio Borghi. He abandoned Bielsa's foundations for a more pragmatic playing style, racking up three consecutive defeats, shedding a bucket-load of goals, and winning himself the sack by November of 2012.

Sampaoli was the popular appointment, joining from an impressive domestic club in Universidad de Chile, who had adopted similar principles as the national team during their 2011 Copa Sudamericana triumph.

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