Friday, May 09, 2014

Meet the Team: Chile

Nickname: Chile goes by "El Rojo" or "The Red One"--which isn't nearly as intimidating as Spain's "La Furia Roja" (The red fury), but before you mock, remember, Cincinatti has the same name for their baseball team.

Star: Since South America boasts five great teams at this cup, and Chile is only the fourth best of those, it's not surprising that few have noted the promise of Arturo Vidal. With five goals to his name in qualifying a parcel of created chances, he's been invaluable in making Chile a genuine darkhorse in the tournament.

Gary Medel is posing with a
 peace sign ironically
Hip-Star: Roll up your flannel sleeves in homage to the hard working, high flying, pitbull defender Gary Medel. Far from the spotlights of Juventus and Barcelona, Medel has plied his trade anywhere that will have him, working his way from Chile, to Brazil, to Spain and all the way to Cardiff City, where he made a strong showing even in a weak season for the Welsh side. Plus...look at his instagram...the man's obviously three clicks from posting his top 10 jelly crullers you've never heard of.

X-Factor: Chile's got one phenomenal advantage in their group stage: Spain and Holland Play First. Since they're an obvious favorite against poor old Australia, that match will go a long way to determining their strategy and plan for the rest of the cup. If Spain wins, they shoot for a draw in the second match and hit Holland hard in the last match. If Holland wins, they try to push the advantage against Spain and split the difference with Holland. If the Europeans draw, they just focus on getting draws themselves and hope goal difference puts them top.

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli has made a huge difference for the national side. Bringing the calming influence he brought to club side Universidad de Chile to the world stage. Helping the little Chilean side win the Copa Sudamerica was a great set up for the rush to qualify and the race for the title

History: After a early 21st Century lull, Chile's back in the upset oriented mindset that saw them hit the round of 16 both in France '98 and South Africa '10. They came second to Spain in that group and know how to match up with their fellow reds when need be.

Food: How about a food as versatile as the Chilean team itself? The sopapilla can be sweet or savory, plain, or pumpkin, served with ice cream/chocolate/icing or chili sauce/mustard

Fool: Four consecutive free and fair elections? Come on Chile We need someone to mock! Oh, wait, I know...Lucía Pinochet daughter of the repressive dictator, councilwoman for a local government, she'll do nicely (I'm sure she had a lovely relationship with her dad, but we need a punk, and given Pinochet's fondness for medals everywhere, she'll do nicely)

Best Case: With plenty of talent and fewer expectations, Chile surprises both Holland and Spain to go first in the group, thereby avoiding their eternal bugaboo Brazil in the second round and taking their run to a shocking semi-final spot--their first since hosting in 1962.

Worst Case: Good as they are, Chile may be a little overwhelmed by their group. Overlooking Australia would be a mistake--and one they might pay for by finishing last.

My prediction: La Rojo's sneaky threat to the established order of Group B is 100% serious. If they can spring a shock on the Dutch in the last match (and I think they can) they should get the second round, it's a shame that they always seem to draw Brazil in that first knock-out stage. 2nd Round (2nd in Group--6 points)

Added Bonus: Chiles' contribution to our World Cup of Hip-Hop? Guerillero Okulto's "FARO Tláhauc"--on MC name alone he's a winner.

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