Any team which beats Argentina and finishes second only to Brazil in qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ is likely to be regarded with the utmost respect by their rivals around the globe. Chile have patently unearthed their first golden generation in many a long year, and if our latest user poll here at FIFA.com is anything to go by, are seen as the most likely to upset the established order at this year's showpiece event.
Chileans hungry for success
We asked you which nation was most likely to emerge as the surprise package at the first FIFA World Cup on African soil, suggesting one team from each of the six FIFA confederations. Once the responses were tallied, Chile topped the poll with 33.06% of the votes, just ahead of Algeria on 31.15%. Serbia came third on 13.06%, followed by Japan with 10.41%, Honduras on 8.79%, and New Zealand with 3.53%.
Head coach Marcelo Bielsa’s South Americans, who have been drawn in Group H with Spain, Switzerland and Honduras, are sure to be treated as highly dangerous opponents by their group rivals. "We’ll have to work extremely hard if we’re to make the next round. But we have the players, the hunger, and the coaching staff to succeed,” explained Chilean FA chairman Harold Mayne-Nicholls following the Final Draw in Cape Town last December.
Hopes rest on Suazo
Overall, La Roja comfortably topped our poll in three of FIFA.com’s six language versions, chalking up an impressive 73.09% of the votes on the Spanish channel. The Algerians, who eliminated African champions Egypt in qualifying for the 2010 finals, finished first in two of our language-specific polls with a spectacular 76.74% on the French channel, and 43.89% on the Arab language version. Our German-speaking users handed first place to Serbia on 45.56%.
Overall winners Chile last contested the FIFA World Cup finals at the 1998 edition in France. Their group stage campaign included a 2-2 draw with Italy, but they packed for home after the Round of 16 following a sobering 4-1 defeat to then holders Brazil. Many fans will fancy an outside bet on the Chileans going even further this time, as classy striker Humberto Suazo finished top scorer in South American qualifying on ten goals.