The rivalry between Brazil and Chile, who meet on Monday in a Round of 16 tie in Johannesburg, may not as fierce as that shared by England and Germany or Portugal and Spain, yet their encounter at Ellis Park should be no less intriguing for it. After all, the match brings together two of the most impressive teams so far at South Africa 2010, not to mention the top two finishers in South American qualifying.
What is more, Chile and Brazil have a lengthy shared footballing history, which features two previous meetings on the FIFA World Cup™ stage. The first of these came in 1962, when Chile hosted the final tournament just months after the country was devastated by a massive earthquake. With the competition organisers and public pulling together to ensure everything was ready in time, the sense of togetherness helped propel the host nation to third place.
It was Chile's best-ever performance and it might have been even better had they not come up against reigning champions Brazil in the semi-finals. Described by the local press as a team "from another planet", the Brazilians were a fearsome prospect even without Pele, sidelined by the thigh injury he had suffered in his side's second game. It was little surprise when they strode to a 4-2 success with the help of two goals from wing wizard Garrincha in front of over 76,000 spectators at Santiago's Estadio Nacional. That victory on 13 June set up a Final meeting with Czechoslovakia, which Brazil won 3-1 to earn their second world crown.
The second page in the pair's shared FIFA World Cup story was written 12 years ago yesterday at the Parc des Princes in Paris in the Round of 16 at France 1998. On that occasion, Brazil were again the holders and again proved too hot to handle for La Roja, with two goals apiece from Cesar Sampaio and Ronaldo and a majestic display from Rivaldo guiding them to a 4-1 triumph.
On top from the outset
Those two wins at FIFA World Cups are just two examples of Brazil's superiority over their Chilean counterparts in head-to-head encounters. A Seleção have won 46 and lost just seven of 65 meetings since 1916 – scoring 152 goals to 55 conceded. The statistics during Dunga's rein as Brazil coach offer equally gloomy reading for Chile fans: five wins from five for Brazil, with 20 goals scored and just three conceded.
These five games included a 6-1 thrashing of Chile at the 2007 Copa America, as well as 4-2 and 3-0 home and away victories in qualifying for South Africa. They form part of a nine-game unbeaten run for Brazil against their last-16 opponents that stretches back to a 3-0 reverse in Santiago on 16 August 2000 in qualifying for Korea/Japan 2002. On Monday at Ellis Park, Brazil are also likely to boast a player who has struck six times in his last four games against La Roja: Robinho. "I've always been fortunate enough to score goals against them and I hope that things go A Seleção's way this time too," he said. "We'll be looking to play high-tempo football. The faster we play, the harder it'll be for our markers to stop us.”
Though the record books clearly weigh heavily in Brazil's favour, Chile's attractive attacking displays both here on South African soil and in storming to a runners-up spot in qualifying give plenty of reasons for positive thinking. Indeed, Marcelo Bielsa's charges were highly impressive in Group H wins over Honduras and Switzerland and had European champions Spain on the back foot for periods of a narrow 2-1 defeat.
"Brazil are a fearsome side, with the current team having all the country's traditional creativity combined with a greater level of aggression and ruthlessness," said Bielsa, Chile's Argentinian strategist. "But we'll give it everything we've got and more to try and reach the quarter-finals." Echoing his coach's words was experienced midfielder Rodrigo Tello, who told FIFA: "Brazil are one of the best teams in the world. They're the kind of side that usually put away every chance you give them. That's why we have to be totally focused from start to finish." The Besiktas man ended on a note sure to inspire La Roja fans everywhere, adding: "I'm totally convinced that if we can hit our best form, we can beat them."