FIFA Confederations Cup: Chile seek redemption after disappointing run of form

Chile have emerged as a third powerhouse in South American football after back-to-back Copa America wins. However, their World Cup qualification campaign has been fraught with inconsistencies and the FIFA Confederations Cup will be a major indicator as to whether or not they can make it to Russia next summer.

football Updated: Jun 14, 2017 22:31 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Sayan Ghosh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
FIFA Confederations Cup,FIFA World Cup 2018,Chile national football team
The FIFA Confederations Cup is a good chance for Chile to get their form back on track and qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. (AFP)

The history of Latin American football has always been defined by its two powerhouses - Brazil and Argentina. The two countries have dominated world football for decades and are invariably at the centre of any discussion on South American football. However, that duopoly has faced a huge challenge in the last couple of years from Chile, one of the oldest footballing nations of the continent.

La Roja (Chilean football team’s nickname) were among the first four teams of the first-ever Campeonato Sudamericano de Football competition in 1916, which later evolved into the Copa America. They were also a part of the first World Cup, staged by Uruguay in 1930. Chile also won a bronze medal in the Sydney Olympics (2000).

Big step

However, after falling short a few times, it was only in 2015 when they finally established themselves as a football powerhouse after winning the Copa America. It was a huge moment for the nation when they defeated Argentina on penalties in the final and the grit and determination shown by the team made the world take notice.

READ | Brazil rout Australia 4-0 in FIFA Confederations Cup warm-up match

A year later, the La Roja found themselves in the same situation when they reached the final of the Copa América Centenario, and it was once again a penalty shootout victory for Chile. The second title firmly established them as one of the strongest teams of Latin America.

Qualification pangs

Sadly, it has not been smooth sailing for Chile since then. The team has struggled to produce the same level of performances and they are currently fourth in the CONMEBOL FIFA World Cup 2018 qualification rankings. They have lost five times till now, and with four matches to go, a tough campaign awaits the South American champions. However, that will have to take a backseat as they gear up for their first FIFA Confederations Cup appearance as continental champions.

La Roja have chosen a strong squad for the tournament and will have almost all of their big names in it. Their new manager - Juan Antonio Pizzi - has already emphasised on the importance of this competition and that will be key for the rest of the squad. Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Bravo will all be in action, and after the successful seasons they have had with their respective clubs, it will be a grave mistake to take Chile lightly.

READ | Ten-man France down England 3-2 in lively friendly

However, the situation with the World Cup qualifiers can act as a distraction for the team. After their success in Copa America, a lot is expected of the side and a failed qualification campaign can considerably damage their reputation.

As a result, the tournament, a preview to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, will be an acid test for the newly crowned kings of Latin America. A successful run in the eight-team competition though can be the perfect confidence-booster for them.

First Published: Jun 14, 2017 17:54 IST