Anybody who followed Chile’s successful campaign in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ will be well aware of the attacking intent consistently shown by Marcelo Bielsa’s charges. Indeed, La Roja finished second in the South American Zone and were the region’s top scorers with 32 goals from 18 games.
However, prior to Wednesday’s Group H opener against Honduras on Tuesday, it remained unclear how ‘El Loco’ Bielsa would send out his side given the absence through injury of his ten-goal leading marksman in qualifying, Humberto Suazo. The answer could be seen right from the outset of the game in Nelspruit, with Chile foregoing a target man for a policy of speed and continual movement.
“Today I had to carry out a different role, as more of a centre-forward, and I think it worked,” said Jorge Valdivia, nominally a creative midfielder, speaking to FIFA after his side’s 1-0 victory. In effect, Bielsa deployed a four-man attacking unit, with Matias Fernandez, goalscorer Jean Beausejour, Alexis Sanchez and Valdivia utilising speed, skill and ability to interchange positions to positive effect.
“Suazo is a hugely important focal point for this team, so we tried to make up for his absence by moving around and opening up spaces,” said Valdivia, currently at Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates. “It was not just so the four players furthest forward could create danger but also to free up the other midfielders and the wing-backs.”
It was from one such passage of quick movement and interplay that Chile’s clinching goal came. Sporting Lisbon’s ‘Mati’ Fernandez played in the overlapping Mauricio Isla whose cross was bundled home by Beausejour, who had cleverly switched from his left-sided berth to find space in the six-yard box.
“We’re just like Playstation players now, our movement is totally programmed into us,” said the 26-year-old Valdivia, smiling broadly despite carrying a knock taken during his tussles with the Honduran backline. “We’ve been playing together for so long now and we’ve spent so much time training that we know exactly what to do and where each other is going to be.”
And though Chile would have been hoping for more goals against Los Catrachos, Bielsa’s attacking quartet did enough to secure all three points and a positive start in a Group H also containing Spain and Switzerland. “That’s something 'El Profesor' Bielsa always asks us to do. Whoever we’re up against he wants us to go on the front foot and also to defend as a team – like 11 warriors,” concluded Valdivia, whose team face the Helvetians in their next game on 21 June at the Port Elizabeth Stadium.