Arturo Vidal is pretty happy with life at the moment, and with good reason. The Chile midfielder underwent surgery on his right knee on 7 May and was a serious doubt for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. But after making what his coach Jorge Sampaoli described as an “amazing” recovery, the Juventus man made the world finals and started his side’s 3-1 defeat of Australia.
On the eve of Chile’s crucial Group B game against Spain, a match that could see the South Americans book their place in the last 16 and seal the early elimination of the reigning world champions, the versatile 27-year-old sat down for a chat with FIFA.
FIFA: What is it that you like most about the position you play in?
Arturo Vidal: What I like doing is winning the ball and hearing the crowd cheer. It’s a wonderful thing to hear how happy the fans are when you go in for the ball and come away with it, but you also get the same feeling when you do a nice move or score a goal. I love the passion of the people.
You’ve always been known for your ability to attack and defend. Do you like having those two roles?
Yes! When you start playing you dream of scoring lots of goals, but in football you sometimes have to change positions. Thank God I’m strong and full of running, and the fact that I’ve got a great physique means I can both defend and score goals.
Talking of your physical condition, how is your right knee?
It’s fine now. I’m pleased because I made a very quick recovery. I thought it was going to be a lot harder for me. Luckily, I made the team for the first match, and the 60 minutes I played is going to come in useful for the two matches coming up, which are both very tough (against Spain and the Netherlands). I hope to show how good I feel in those games and how much I can help the team.
A lot has been said about how Chile always play the same way. How would you describe the team’s style?
Some say we take a suicidal approach. We press very high up the pitch. We try to stop other teams from playing and win the ball back as high up the pitch as possible. And when we’ve got the ball we start to play and make the opposition run, which is a good way of finding out if they have same level of intensity as we do when we don’t have it.
We believe in his vision. He brought in players he knew and we started to grow, to believe that we were a strong side, and we showed that in the qualifiers.
What are the differences between this team and the one you featured in at South Africa 2010?
There are a few, especially with the quality of the young players we have in the side at moment. They’re very fast and very hungry. That was also the first World Cup for all of us. We were fulfilling a dream, but now we’ve got that experience behind us, which helps quite a bit.
How much has the national team changed since Jorge Sampaoli took charge?
A lot, because we believe in his vision. He brought in players he knew and we started to grow, to believe that we were a strong side, and we showed that in the qualifiers. I think we rediscovered the mental approach that we’d been missing.
You’ve played some big matches in your career at both domestic and international level. Where does this Spain match rank?
It’s a high-quality game and the nearest equivalent at club level is playing against Real Madrid or the match we played (with Juventus) against Bayern Munich in Germany in the Champions League. They’re similar situations, with more or less the same pressure. They’re the big games in your career.
One last question. What does it mean to play at the Maracana against the world champions?
The situation makes it one of those matches you dream about. There’s the atmosphere in a stadium like that, the fact we’re playing Spain, and knowing that if you win you’re going to qualify from one of the toughest groups in the World Cup. It’s all very exciting because if we go through, then everyone’s going to be talking about us.