It might seem odd that Chile would draw strength from a stadium which is the spiritual home of their opponents, but La Roja’s 2-0 win over holders Spain at Brazil’s Maracana proved they are able to challenge, and dominate, the world’s best.
Chile facing Brazil in the Round of 16 is becoming a regular fixture – the two teams met at the same stage at both South Africa 2010 and France 1998. Brazil won both times (3-0 and 4-1 respectively), but Saturday’s match in Belo Horizonte may represent the best chance Chile have of disturbing world football’s pecking order.
The data just released from Group B reveals their ability to adapt to the styles of the different teams. Against Australia Chile had 64% possession, keeping the ball for long periods in a comprehensive 3-1 victory. They were forced to play with less of the ball against Spain – 41% possession – but with no change to the end result, which also saw Jorge Sampaoli’s men win by two clear goals.
Chile achieved this by altering their style. Their top pass receiver in the Australia game was midfielder Marcelo Diaz (marked in yellow on the left of infographic), whereas for the Spain game, as we can see below, Chile chose to bypass Spain’s legendary midfield by directing the ball to their attacking players more– danger man Alexis Sanchez (marked in yellow on the right of infographic) of Barcelona was their top pass receiver in their showdown with Spain.
Right-winger Sanchez could be the key again, especially if they target Brazilian left-back Marcelo. Marcelo appeared to be the weak link in Brazil’s defence during the group stage. 29% of his defensive actions in were rated as ‘bad’, more than any other defender across Brazil’s backline.
Back at the Maracana, it’s another South American showdown as in-form Colombia take on Uruguay in the late game. This looks like a battle of two counter-attacking powers – Uruguay had the low share of possession in the two games they won (vs Italy and England), while Colombia had less possession than their opponents in all three of their Group C matches.
The storm created by Uruguay’s star striker Luis Suarez has come to take effect on the field, after Suarez was banned following his alleged bite on Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. Ready to step into the breach is the popular 111-cap striker Diego Forlan, who filled in for an injured Suarez in Uruguay’s first game.
Despite being a well-loved stalwart that received the Golden Ball for Player of the Tournament in 2010, former Manchester United striker Forlan might need to up his performance to make up for the loss of Suarez. In Forlan’s solitary start vs Costa Rica, he failed to hit the target from 3 attempts, whereas in Suarez’s outing against England he hit the target twice from the same number of tries, scoring each time. His number of attacking actions in that game – 61 – also eclipsed Forlan’s tally of 38.
As both teams like to hit their opponents on the break, it will be interesting to see who decides to take control of the midfield in this continental clash.