While Group D, with seven world cups among three of its teams (Italy, Uruguay and England) is the Group of Certain Death this time around, there’s also a Group of Near Death, Group B, which features the last edition’s winner and runners-up, Spain and Holland, besides Chile and Australia.
While Australia are no push overs, it’s Chile’s performance that is likely to make it a three-way battle with La Furia Roja and Oranje. Since 2013, Chile have an impressive record of 10 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses. In this period they have hammered, among others, three of the Group of Death’s teams — Uruguay (2-0), England (2-0) and Costa Rica (6-0) — drawn against Brazil (2-2) and Spain (2-2), while two of their losses have come against, again, Brazil (2-1) and Germany (1-0). Football’s Elo rating, a more reliable indicator than FIFA’s rankings, puts them among the top-10 teams in the world, ahead of Italy and France.
But more than their results, it is the manner in which they have been achieved that makes Chile the team to watch out for. With the likes of Juventus’s Arturo Vidal and Mauricio Isla, and Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) and Eduardo Varagas (Valencia) in their ranks, the South American side have played relentlessly attacking football — a philosophy passed down to current coach Jorge Sampaoli by his mentor and predecessor from the last Cup, Marcelo Bielsa. To give a glimpse of what his rivals will be dealing with, the Argentine Sampaoli, during his early days, was once sent off by the referee in a lower division match. He went out of the stadium, climbed a tree overlooking the field and proceeded to bark instructions at his players from the branches.