The 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers are nearing its end, and even though the play-off rounds are yet to be determined, several top teams have already confirmed their absence in next year’s tournament. Among the biggest disappointments was Chile.
Why did La Roja fail to qualify for the World Cup despite possessing a star-studded squad?
First, let’s take a look at the context.
Chile entered the final matchday in third position in the CONMEBOL standings. They required a win to secure a direct ticket to Russia, but that was not their only option. A draw would have secured a playoff berth, even a one-goal loss would have helped. However, La Roja failed to perform when they needed it the most.
Chile lost 3-0 against Brazil. The heavy defeat ended all chances of qualifying for a third straight World Cup. The 1-1 draw between Peru and Colombia, along with Argentina’s 3-1 victory over Ecuador, pushed Los Cafeteros and La Albiceleste into Russia, leaving Los Incas to decide their fate in a playoff against New Zealand in November.
The coaching staff certainly deserve blame…
It is hard to understand why Chile was eliminated. They won the Copa America in back-to-back years, and also reached the 2017 Confederations Cup final only three months ago. Most of their current problems, however, can be tied to the coaching staff. Once Juan Antonio Pizzi took charge, La Roja failed to repeat past performances under Jorge Sampaoli. The change of style was noticeable. At times, they lacked pace and creativity. It was clear some of Chile’s best players didn’t feel comfortable in the new regime.
The numbers certainly punish Pizzi’s tenure: Chile won five matches, drew one and lost seven during the current qualifiers. And on the same note, their campaign away from home was extremely disappointing, as they lost against Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. The draw against Colombia was decent, although Chile should have lost. Overall, Pizzi’s side collected only 41% of points available on the road to Russia 2018. Ultimately, it proved futile.
But is it fair to blame the team’s struggles entirely on the manager and coaching staff?
…the players must also take responsibility!
Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal ended as the team’s top scorers during the qualifying campaign, but they both disappeared when their nation most needed them. Vidal missed the final match against Brazil due to suspension. La Roja missed his leadership on Brazilian soil.
The defence was a problem as well. They struggled to keep clean sheets, conceding eight goals in the past four matches, while scoring just twice. Those numbers were not going to cut it. Defeats in winnable games against Paraguay and Bolivia also played a part in Chile’s downfall.
Possibly, playing in the Confederations Cup wasn’t what the team needed. Maybe they were overconfident, perhaps relying on their status in the Conmebol region to help pick up victories. But the bottom line: La Roja depended on themselves to clinch a World Cup berth, and they failed miserably.
It was a failure from every angle. Especially if Chile’s strong squad is taken into consideration – one that includes Sanchez, Vidal, Claudio Bravo, Gary Medel, Mauricio Isla and Jorge Valdivia. Unfortunately for those star names, their 2018 World Cup dreams have been crushed.