Chile's recent renaissance has been capped by a return to the FIFA World Cup™ finals following a 12-year absence. In the international wilderness since France 1998, when Marcelo Salas and Ivan Zamorano showcased their consummate finishing skills, La Roja believe they have the resources to emulate their illustrious predecessors and advance beyond the group phase.
Coached by the experienced Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa, the Chileans qualified for the finals with some ease, atoning for poor performances in the qualifying competitions for Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, when they finished ninth and seventh respectively. And having finally found talented replacements to fill the void left by the Za-Sa partnership, hopes are high that they can go on and excel themselves in South Africa.
The road to South Africa
Bielsa's side, which boasts the youngest average age of all the South American teams, finished second in the continental qualifying group, just one point behind Brazil. That performance, their best since the group format was introduced, was rounded off in style with a spectacular 4-2 win in Colombia in October, a result that rubber-stamped their return to the world elite with one game remaining.
In total, La Roja would win 16 of their 33 points away from Santiago, an impressive statistic that underlines the resolve of the team.
Raising expectations further is the fact that the attack-minded Chileans ended the group as the second-highest scorers with 32 goals, ...