Does Chile’s Confed Cup defeat hint at trouble ahead?
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) Chile’s players wanted to prove they were the world’s best, but instead showed they’re vulnerable.
Since 2015, the Chileans have won two Copa Americas, and reached Sunday’s Confederations Cup final - a huge achievement for a country which had never before won a tournament.
They’re spectacular to watch, but Chile’s hard-charging style and three summers without rest and could leave players drained for next year’s World Cup - for which Chile is struggling to qualify.
Chile coach Juan Antonio Pizzi wants his players to leave nothing in the tank.
“I was convinced that if we went back home with no energy left, we would be full of glory, and I thought we would we have the trophy,” he said after losing 1-0 to Germany in Sunday’s final. “We go home with no energy, full of glory, but with no trophy.”
Chile is all about overwhelming the opponent with intense, aggressive pressure. It also works as a defensive tactic, giving opposing teams no time to build up dangerous attacks, such as when Chile won both of its Copa America titles on penalties after 0-0 draws.
There’s no Plan B, though, and Chile doesn’t respond well if the opposition scores first.
Pizzi had claimed Chile would be so motivated by playing against Germany that it would make up for tired legs. Arturo Vidal pitched it as an unofficial world championship game, even though Germany left several star players at home.
Chile managed its usual fast start - but missed crucial chances - and bounced back in a second-half revival.
After Lars Stindl scored following some Chile-style high pressing from the Germans, Chile looked frustrated. They had come back to win 2-1 against Australia in the group stage but Germany was a far trickier opponent and there was visible frustration. Vidal confronted Joshua Kimmich; Gonzalo Jara was lucky to avoid a red card for elbowing Timo Werner.
Chile has high hopes for the World Cup, but the Confederations Cup has meant it once again lost weeks of crucial summer rest.
Vidal has seemingly endless energy reserves, though the strain on his teammates is starting to show. The Chileans occupy the last of South America’s four automatic World Cup qualifying spots, but have Argentina and Ecuador close behind.
Further increasing the burden on tired legs, coach Juan Antonio Pizzi has few options to rotate players. Of Chile’s 12 substitutes for Sunday’s final, none play in European leagues. Age is a factor too - Chile’s 23-man Confederations Cup squad had just four players under the age of 26. None of them started more than one game.
Still, Pizzi has no intention of revising his approach.
“We will try to keep this style of play,” he said. “We have fulfilled our commitment, we have followed our game plan, imposed our style.”