America keeps in the almanac one of the best selections of Chile. That is the one made up of guys like Iván Zamorano, Ivo Basay and Fabián Estay (Conchalí, Santiago de Chile, 52 years old). Estay was the brain of the Red who finished third in the 1991 Copa América, played at home, and who reached the World Cup in France, empowered by Marcelo Salas. “It is an atypical Cup. We cannot complain and look at Europe and ask: why is it played like this in South America? It is summer there, there is an audience, the managers are better organized than at Conmebol. Here the tournament had to be done whatever. There was a lack of empathy, ”the commentator for the Fox Sports network in Mexico told EL PAÍS.
Question. What do you like, dislike about La Roja?
Answer. Coach Martín Lasarte has six games. The worst game was against Paraguay, which ended up losing 0-2, with some arbitration controversy. Chile was overtaken by a very intense Paraguay. Chile has shown two faces with Lasarte and this golden generation is used to winning. Suddenly he plays well the first half and the second no longer. In the first 45 he hits to gain the advantage and then he fails to extend the good moments of intensity, of being vertical, of having scoring opportunities. The last game against Paraguay didn’t even have a chance. There were muscle injuries, which worries for so many games in a row in two weeks. We have Brazil, a regular rival in the Copa América. It’s our normal turn after the group stage. In World Cups too: 1998, 2010 and 2014. They always ended up beating us. Today Brazil is much higher than all the rivals in Conmebol, but Chile can compete very well. It has to reconnect with the winning and competitive DNA.
P. Does the Chilean instability have to do with a heavy workload of matches in this last season?
R. It has happened to all teams, except for Brazil. Argentina had a good first half against Chile and then the Red ended up drawing. Argentina against Bolivia, with all due respect, it was almost a normal result. Chile won 1-0 when they faced the Bolivians. There are Chileans who did not have as much participation in the last tournament in Europe. Gary Medel has played more games with the national team than with his club, Bologna. Arturo Vidal was infected with covid and was also injured for a few months at Inter. Bravo did not play every game at Betis de Pellegrini. There are a lot of situations. The courts in Brazil have not been in the best shape, some coaches have complained that the grass is too long.
P. If Chile recovers the injured Alexis Sánchez it can be crucial for a good result.
R. The thing is, he hasn’t played. He has not played an official match for more than 20 days. A muscle injury is capricious. Maybe Alexis can be used for a few minutes if needed, in an emergency. If Alexis plays he is an important weight, he is respected. You can play the last 30 minutes or the entire second half. It has a lot to pay for. Chile has played with a line of four, against Brazil maybe they will play with a line of three because they have looked very good like this with the wingers-midfielders to reach the area. It attacks well from the sides.
P. What is your opinion of forward Ben Brereton?
R. Whoever found him in the English Second Division seems to me to have done a great job of recruiting. It has great conditions. We cannot begin to compare him with Marcelo Salas, nor Eduardo Vargas, Iván Zamorano nor Alexis. You must make your own story. The boy has not done badly. He has goalscorer conditions. He has been very supportive when it comes to defending the area. At one point you see him heading to goal and two minutes later you see him defending. He is very committed. It has an important future. After Edu Vargas and Alexis, it was tried with Nico Castillo, who has suffered many injuries, to find the replacement up front. Felipe Mora has not had minutes. Jean Meneses has had more minutes, but he is not a center forward. Brereton has done well, but don’t go crazy. It has conditions and commitment.
P. Eduardo Vargas seems to have a special romance with the goal dressed with the Red, but not with his clubs. How do you explain it?
R. There are different types of players, there are those who shine in the teams and put on the national team jersey and do not perform. There are those who comply in both scenarios. Vargas has not had continuity in recent years, except in the U of Chile where he started. He has always surrendered with the national team, finds the goal in the Copa América and is close to being their top scorer. Edu is a boy who wears the Chile jersey and knows what to do.
P. After Chile’s golden generation, what’s next?
R. I follow football periodically, but lately there haven’t been very good players. Defensive midfielders have come out in good condition, but not at the height of Charles Aránguiz or Arturo Vidal. Erick Pulgar does play for Fiorentina and he is doing well. There are interesting players in the midfield. But we will see in time. Now you have to put young people to compete, to stand up against any rival. Diego Valdés, Sebastián Vegas, Nico Díaz; Francisco Sierralta is a good center back. Brayan Cortés and Gabriel Arias are doing well in goal. You have to be patient for the generational change. Lasarte is preparing them. That is why he took a 19-year-old boy, Luciano Arriagada. Little by little he has been getting these guys. So it was with Brereton. He put it against Argentina and saw interesting things. Now he is a starter. For some it may be their last Copa América, we will not know until we see their physical results over the years. It is necessary to work in the formative part in Chile, which perhaps has been neglected.
P. Is the conflict fuel for Chile? In 2015, the Vidal incident occurred when a Ferrari crashed and La Roja ended up winning the tournament. Now it was a problem that they broke the health bubble.
R. It may be a time to come together, but this mature generation should understand that such things should be left out. One should not always speak of disciplined Chile. The guys from below do not have a good example. I don’t want to say that Vidal is a bad example because the guy wears his shirt and if he has to block a ball with his head, he does it. It is a bull. You cannot question what he does on the court. What he does off the pitch a lot of people don’t like. There are regulations, protocols that must be respected.
P. What lesson can you teach this generation to beat the Brazilian ogre?
R. Giving advice is free. I give my opinion: these guys are winners. It is a match in which they will compete. If they run better against Brazil and take the ball from them, they can get a good result. They know how to compete. They have already won two Copa América, they went to the World Cup twice in a row. They have to die of something, they have to sweat blood, so to speak, to beat Brazil. The shirt is defended with the feet and the head.
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