Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chile's tactics thrill as expected

The outstanding Zonalmarking website’s prediction prior to the World Cup finals that Chile would be the most tactically exciting side was justified in style by the South American side in their 1-0 defeat of Honduras yesterday. Marcelo Bielsa, Chile’s Argentinean coach, likes to have a spare centre-back at all times and knowing that Honduras would begin the game with a lone centre forward, he tweaked his customary 3-3-1-3 to a more conventional 4-2-1-3 (or 4-2-3-1, depending on how the wide players are to be viewed), thereby pitting two central defenders against Honduras’ sole striker and giving license to the full backs to maraud forward.

Having gone into half time a goal down, Honduras moved Edgard Alvarez alongside Carlos Pavon up front, a change that saw Chile revert to the 3-3-1-3 that had served them exceptionally throughout qualifying. By replacing central midfielder Rodrigo Millar with central defender Gonzalo Jara and by allowing Mauricio Isla and Arturo Vidal to act as wing backs, Chile ensured that they possessed a spare centre back at all times. In the eyes of many this would be a purely reactive change, but by keeping his tactical options open, Biesla ensured that his side maintained the right defensive shape to balance their superb attacking options. (A more comprehensive tactical analysis of the game is provided here in the Zonalmarking website)

The tactical aspects apart, it must be said that it was great to watch a team play with wit, flair and imagination in a World Cup finals that has hitherto been largely colourless in attack. With the brilliant Matias Fernandez, deployed as a traditional playmaker, pulling the strings, and the front three of Jean Beausejour (to whom the first goal was credited), Jorge Valdivia and Alexis Sanchez pressing from the top, Chile were at times irrepressible. Sanchez’s pace and skill, in particular was a constant menace, with the Udinese forward creating numerous chances that would have seen Chile win by a more comfortable margin, if not for the profligacy of Beausejour and Valdivia in front of goal. The full backs Isla and Vidal, who were later deployed as wing backs must also be commended, for their verve and energy, which helped Chile successfully use the full width of the pitch.

With Switzerland having upset Spain by adopting the Jose Mourinho model of defensive design, Group H is now beautifully poised. The Swiss, who next fact Chile, will be expected to retain their dogged approach to the game, but Biesla’ tactics, eccentric to some, but mostly thoughtful, will hopefully continue to thrill.

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