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Chile get that sinking Brazilian feeling again

June 29, 2014 13:46 IST

Chile get that sinking Brazilian feeling again

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Chile will be devastated to have exited the World Cup on penalties after pushing Brazil to their limits on Saturday, but the one emotion they surely will not feel is surprise.

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This is the fourth time the Brazilians have knocked Chile out of the World Cup. They did it in the semi-finals in 1962 and in the second round in 1998 and 2010.

The two sides have now met 69 times and the Chileans have won just seven.

“I told them to fight, I told them to be brave. I told them to defy history, and we came so close but unfortunately it wasn't to be," Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli said following the draining penalty shootout defeat after the second-round match in Belo Horizonte finished 1-1 after extra time.

"The players have represented our country in a beautiful, wonderful way."

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Image: Jorge Valdivia and Mauricio Pinilla of Chile look dejected after being defeated by Brazil in the penatly shootout
Photographs: Ian Walton/Getty Images

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But once the disappointment of defeat has passed, the Chileans will surely be able to draw comfort from another admirable performance at a World Cup.

After brushing aside Australia, they beat defending champions Spain 2-0 at the Maracana and gave the Dutch a run for their money in their next group match before conceding two late goals to lose by the same scoreline.

"We played Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil and we were no worse than any of them," captain and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo said.

Sampaoli has built on the good work of his predecessor and fellow-Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, who guided Chile to the same stage of the tournament in South Africa four years ago.

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Image: Chile players look dejected
Photographs: Buda Mendes/Getty Images

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Chile get that sinking Brazilian feeling again

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His devotion to the Bielsa school of coaching led one Chilean newspaper to describe him as "a bald-mini-Bielsa".

That is a little unfair. Sampaoli has stamped his own mark on the side, bringing in new players like striker Eduardo Vargas and midfielder Marcelo Diaz.

Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal of Juventus are the players who grab the headlines but as the Chileans have shown in Brazil, they have strength in depth. Their six goals in open play came from five different players.

What the Chileans lack is stature. With an average height of just 1.76 metres, they were the smallest of the 32 squads at the World Cup.

No surprise, then, that half the goals they conceded were from headers and they often looked vulnerable from set-pieces.

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Image: Fans of Chile react
Photographs: Pablo Sanhueza/Reuters

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Chile's other weakness is psychological. Despite their unquestionable talent, they seldom seem to believe they can do the business against teams with the pedigree of Brazil.

But that is starting to change and their performances here should go a long way to help them shake off their inferiority complex, the legacy of years of failure.

Their big worry is that their golden generation is now on the wane. Alexis, Vidal, Bravo, defender Gary Medel and playmaker Jorge Valdivia will all be in their thirties when the next World Cup comes round.

Before then, though, they have one more chance to shine.

Next year, Chile host the Copa America, a tournament they have yet to win in 36 attempts dating back to 1916. That failure rankles and even their Andean rivals Peru and Bolivia have won the tournament.

Sampaoli is likely to stay on as coach until at least then, and on home soil they might finally claim the title.

They just have to find a way of avoiding Brazil.


Image: From left, Gonzalo Jara, Gary Medell, Fabian Orellana, Eduardo Vargas and Eugenio Mena of Chile react after being defeated by Brazil
Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

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