The FIFA U-17 World Cup 2015 will be the fourth FIFA tournament to take place in Chile, a football-mad country in which matches attract large crowds nationwide.
As well as hosting the game's flagship event, the FIFA World Cup™, back in 1962, the country has also staged both the men's and women's versions of the U-20 event, in 1987 and 2008 respectively. On the latter occasion, this was the first time that the finals of a FIFA women's competition had been held in South America.
The Chilean national team, nicknamed La Roja, are one of the oldest international sides in the world, having played their first match over 100 years ago (against Argentina on 27 May 1910). The Chilean Football Association (FFC), which oversees the game in the country, dates back even further. It was established on 19 June 1895, joined FIFA in 1913 and was one of the founding members of CONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation, in 1916.
Brazil 2014 was Chile's ninth appearance at the FIFA World Cup finals and their best result to date came on home turf in 1962, when they finished third. Other notable achievements include third place at the 1993 U-17 World Cup and 2007 U-20 World Cup, a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics and fourth place at the 1987 U-20 World Cup.
The most successful clubs in Chilean football history are Colo-Colo, Universidad de Chile and Universidad Catolica. On the continental stage, highlights include Colo-Colo's victory in the 1991 Copa Libertadores and Universidad de Chile's triumph in the 2011 Copa Sudamericana.
The country: an overview
Located along the west coast of South America, Chile is an extremely long, narrow country spanning a full 39 degrees of latitude from its northern border with Peru and Bolivia to the Diego Ramirez Islands in the south. It is bounded by two major mountain chains: the Andes and the Coastal Range.
Chile also claims sovereignty over a chunk of the Antarctic, stretching from roughly 61°S all the way to the South Pole, although these claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty. Its best known offshore island territories, meanwhile, are Easter Island, the Juan Fernandez Archipelago, Chiloe and Tierra del Fuego.
The majority of the country's 17.8 million inhabitants live in Chile's central region. According to one study, some 52.7% of the population are Creoles (that is to say, descendants of European settlers), while 39.3% are mestizo (mixed race) and 8% are Amerindian. On the other hand, a 1978 book on public health by Ernesto Medina Lois and Ana Maria Kaempffer Ramirez, available to consult on the University of Chile website, lists 30% of the population as of Caucasian origin, with "predominantly white" mestizos accounting for 65% and indigenous people representing the remaining 5%. Meanwhile, a 1994 article in the Journal of Medical Genetics indicates that the population at the time of publication was "approximately 64% white and 35% Amerindian with traces of other admixture".
Chile's official language is Spanish, which is spoken throughout the country with only minor regional variations. Other languages continue to survive in limited areas, including the indigenous tongues Mapudungun (spoken by the Mapuche people), Rapa Nui (spoken on Easter Island) and Aymara (spoken in the mountains in the north of the country).
Chile has one of the solidest economies in South America, relying heavily on the extraction and export of raw materials. On this note, it is among the world's leading copper exporters.
Agriculture and livestock farming are also prevalent in the central and southern regions; indeed, the export of fruit and vegetables has reached record levels over the last decade, thanks to booming trade with Europe and Asia. Forestry, fishing and wine production have also grown substantially in recent years. On the other hand, other industries remain highly decentralised and mainly serve local markets.
Weather and tourism
Owing to Chile's geographic diversity, weather conditions can vary hugely across the country. In broad terms, the climate is dry in the north, warm in the centre and cold and wet in the south.
The far north of the country is home to the Atacama Desert, which runs from the lower slopes of the Andes to the sea. Mining – the region is extremely rich in minerals – fishing and industry are predominant in the area, but it also attracts large numbers of tourists. The top draws include the beaches lapped by warm waters, plus authentic Andean villages and salt pans in the middle of the desert.
The bulk of Chile's population and economic activity is clustered within a roughly 1,000-km-long area running from the north of the capital, Santiago, to the city of Puerto Montt. The beautiful beaches skirting along the coast of this central region, not to mention the breathtaking lakes, volcanic landscapes and fish-filled rivers, are magnets for visitors.
Below Puerto Montt, the picture changes again to encompass vast expanses of wild vegetation and rolling hills, interspersed by hundreds of islands, fjords, glacial lakes and rivers. All in all, this is an ideal setting for adventure tourism and relaxing in the heart of nature.
Similar landscapes are to be found even further south in Chilean Patagonia, which also covers the whole of Tierra del Fuego. The stunning city of Punta Arenas, with its historic mansions, is an ideal starting point for discovering a whole host of captivating and fascinating sights, headed by the Torres del Paine National Park, the Bulnes Fort and of course Antarctica.