Someone dial Marcelo Bielsa: Chile needs help. Bielsa was the celebrated coach who turned around Chile’s fortunes during the previous decade and gave them a much famed attacking style of play. Before him, they used to say, ‘what was Chile’s style of play’; after him the world shut up and watched in admiration for a decade.
Now not only has the senior team lost out on World Cup qualifications — the wife of the goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has alleged that many players were drunk and hungover before important matches — but the Under-17 team too has bowed out here in Guwahati. At least the boys fought.
They needed to beat Mexico to stay alive in the tournament, but they packed the defense, sat behind for majority of the game barring a final frenzy in the last 10 minutes. They had a few shots at the end but they were panicky efforts and they couldn’t finish under pressure.
Pressure grew as neither team could finish cleanly. Mexico had the majority of possession, but couldn’t break through the Chile wall. Mexico’s best forward Diego Lainez tried his best from left flank, but couldn’t burst through. Club Tijuana’s Daniel Lopez had couple of chances but couldn’t find the net. They hit the crossbar a couple of times.
Chile’s plan was simple: defend, defend and try for the counterattacking goal but they left it for too late. Tears rolled down in the end as they slumped to the ground, and the coach not only hugged most of them but also got them in a huddle and gave a lengthy emotional speech.
“I told them don’t worry, you have done well to qualify after 20 years. You fought well. I am proud of you all,” he said later.
Mexico too would not be too chuffed with the way they have progressed to pre-quarters. No win, couple of draws and a tendency to wake up only in the second half. Before the game, the coach spoke about how they need to change and seize initiative early but it didn’t go according to plan. The first half was listless affair, and the game only came alive at the death. Mexico will face Iran, which they were very happy about.
“We have played then before and beaten them, so that’s good for us.” Chile would fly back home with experiences that would toughen them up, said the coach. “Yes we didn’t win but it was good experience for the boys. They would have learnt so much from this: we qualified for this world cup, and gave our best.”
Bielsa propagated the theory he called ‘protaganismo’ which roughly translates to forcing the issue and seizing initiative.
It involved a whole team pressing ahead for possession, and ramming ahead for the duration of the game.
He would attack from the flanks, and team found an identity and blossomed. Jorge Sampaouli, who was a fan of Bielsa, followed it and team won and dazzled the fans. They need to find another Bielsa now.