The knockout round of the FIFA World Cup will begin as host nation Brazil goes up against Group B’s second seed, Chile. In what has become dubbed the South American Saturday, Colombia will also face off against Uruguay following the Brazil-Chile match. The winner of today’s match between Brazil and Chile will advance to the quarterfinals, to be held on July 4, where they will play the winner of the Colombia-Uruguay game. As game time draws near, the Chilean squad is looking to eliminate host nation Brazil in the Round of 16.
Chile finished Group B behind the Netherlands, the team that dealt Chile its only defeat in group play. Group B saw both Spain and Australia go home in what can only be described as a massive upset for Spain, and yet an equally impressive, well fought set of games for Australia.
The advantages for Chile are threefold against host nation Brazil. First off, Chile has an array of goal scorers, so it is not just a single player that has been dangerous. Charles Aránguiz, Alexis Sánchez and Eduardo Vargas are among some of the dangers that Brazil will have to keep eye on. Coming in off the bench, Jean Beausejour was able to net a goal as well, so Brazil have to prepare for Chile’s capable substitutes as well.
Secondly, Brazil has received criticism for a fickle display of gusto throughout group play, so it is likely that the team is nursing some wounds of the ego. Brazil defender Dani Alves said before the game against Cameroon that his team was feeling the pressures of being the host nation, and that the threat of unfulfilled expectations has not been easy to cope with. Chile is likely to take advantage of this in their effort to eliminate the host nation in the Round of 16.
Lastly, the Brazilian squad has been relying on the talents of Neymar to drive them to victory. Brazil’s draw against Mexico exposed the host nation’s dependence on the FC Barcelona player, and illustrated how an opposing team might be able to maneuver an isolated threat defensively. Similar to the mantra of any team going up against Lionel Messi, shutting down Neymar is the first and last step to shutting down Brazil’s offensive threat.
One Guardian Liberty Voice sports writer has noted that it is important for Brazil’s central midfielders to maintain possession of the ball so as to minimize the threat of a counterattack. This is an apt observation, however it overlooks the dangers of Chile on the flanks, and the diversity of goal scorers in the Chilean arsenal thus far in the World Cup.
The one concern that Chile must address is the status of players Arturo Vidal and Gary Medel. Coach Jorge Sampaoli has stated that Vidal has not been 100 percent since returning from a recent knee surgery. Sampaoli also noted that Medel has a muscle injury that might be serious enough to sit the defender out against Brazil.
Chile has the opportunity to eliminate the host nation in the Round of 16, and that fact has been a threat in the back of Brazilian manager, Luiz Scolari’s mind since last December. Scolari stated that he would rather face a European team in the knockout round, adding “I hope Chile don’t qualify.”
Statements such as this are bound to fuel the Chilean players and fans alike as they prepare to face Brazil at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte. Chile has the advantage over the host nation’s wounded ego, singular scoring strategy, and overall lack of zeal that was demonstrated in group stages. Today, Chile will look to eliminate host nation Brazil from the 2014 World Cup.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson
Read More Guardian Liberty Voice Coverage on the FIFA World Cup Round of 16