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article imageBrazil — Chile preview: Can Chile avenge past World Cup defeats?

By Tyrrell Meertins     Jun 27, 2014 in Sports
Chile will encounter a familiar foe on their road to their first World Cup triumph as they have a date with hosts Brazil.
The Chileans have fallen short in the round of 16 against the Brazilians — by three goals in 1998 and 2010 — in their last two World Cup appearances, but Jorge Sampaoli’s pragmatism could prove successful on their third attempt. The showdown in Belo Horizonte is undoubtedly the most compelling fixture at this stage, as Chile has improved since South Africa, combining exciting football with results.
While the belief that Chile hoped to avoid Brazil may be true, Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side face a few issues heading into this seismic encounter. Considering Chile’s performances in a 4-3-3 throughout the tournament, and Brazil’s difficulties breaking down Mexico, it’s likely that Sampaoli will utilize a 3-5-2. It’s also key to note that no side fielding a four-man defence has defeated a three-man defence in Brazil. Still, Sampaoli’s decision to play a three-man defence will offer the Chileans a spare man at the back, while Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez’s movement have been positive in this system.
Brazil’s back four looked feeble in the group stage, and on several occasions captain Thiago Silva has been forced to cover for the fullbacks and centre-back partner David Luiz. Marcelo and Dani Alves have failed to replicate last year’s Confederations Cup form, where they served as significant attacking options, creating several goals in wide areas. Brazil’s group stage opposition has comfortably negated their threat from wide areas, and has equally exploited space behind the attack-minded fullbacks. If Chile’s attacking duo can drift into these spaces, Scolari’s men could be in for a long afternoon.
Scolari will be forced into making a few significant decisions regarding his front six. Scolari has displayed his belief in togetherness and chemistry — regardless of form — but Fernandinho’s second half display against Cameroon has bettered Paulinho’s performances in the tournament thus far, and should merit the Manchester City midfielder a spot in the starting XI. Likewise, while Hulk offers balance to the attack, the 27-year-old winger has been fairly underwhelming in Brazil’s group stage fixtures.
The other issue involves Brazil’s inability to link midfield and attack due to Neymar’s positioning behind Fred. Despite Oscar’s impressive opening day display, Brazil’s struggled to create chances from open play, and all of their goals have stemmed from quick transitions in the oppositions third. Oscar is the key man as the number 10, as he drops deep to retain possession, creates plays and space for his teammates, but also prevents the midfield duo from being overloaded in central areas. The Brazilian midfielder hasn’t built on his opening day performance against Croatia, and he’s struggled to impose himself into matches on the flanks.
Considering Brazil will likely control possession, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Sampaoli’s side replicate the approach that was successful against Spain. Marcelo Diaz would track Neymar, while Charles Aranguiz and Arturo Vidal would fancy their battle against Paulinho and Luiz Gustavo. Brazil risks the chance of being overrun in this situation, and it would be surprising if Oscar didn’t retain the role that he flourished in last year. Aranguiz, in his own right is a good passer and presser, and Vidal’s surges from midfield could torment Gustavo.
Sampaoli’s side will press in midfield and aim to launch quick counterattacks, but Brazil’s initial game plan is uncertain. Chile possesses the personnel to exploit their attack-minded full-backs, and a midfield trio that could press Scolari’s double-pivot out of the match. Brazil will need more than an over-reliance on individual brilliance and quick transitions, and Oscar reverting back to his no.10 role can provide the required cohesion.
Brazil will enter the match as favourites, but under Sampaoli, Chile are well-equipped to frustrate, and possibly end their World Cup curse against the hosts .
More about Chile, Brazil, World Cup, Fifa world cup, Neymar
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