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Tactical Analysis

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Spain 0 – 2 Chile

After suffering a humiliation at the hands of the Netherlands in the opening match, Spain had a must-win game against Chile. The 1-5 defeat by van Gaal’s Dutch side was a major blow which shook Spain to the core. And with Spain’s 2-0 loss to Chile, Vicente del Bosque’s side have become the fifth defending champions to go out in the group stage.

Spain Chile Tactics

Formation & Line-Ups

Spain (4-2-3-1): Casillas, Azpilicueta, Martínez, Ramos, Alba, Busquets, Alonso (Koke 46′), Iniesta, Pedro (Cazorla 76′), Silva, Costa (Torres 64′)

Chile (5-2-1-2): Bravo, Jara, Silva, Medel, Mena, Aránguiz (Gutierrez 64), Díaz, Isla, Vidal, Vargas, Sánchez

Goals: Vargas 19′, Aranguiz 43′

Basic setup

As expected, Vicente del Bosque made some changes with Pique replaced by Javi Martínez while Pedro came in for Xavi. Spain set out a cautious 4-2-3-1 formation with Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets holding,and David Silva as a No. 10 while Andres Iniesta played on the left. His counterpart was Pedro. Diego Costa was probably the worst performer in the opening match, but he kept his place. Frankly, he was disappointing again. His movement and ball handling were far from good. Gary Medel was able to commit to man-marking him most of the time.


Just one change was made from the Chile line-up involved in the victory over Australia, with half-back Francisco Silva in for Jorge Valdivia.Chile mostly played in a 5-2-1-2, that often became a 3-4-1-2 with the wing-backs playing more actively on offense.The expectation was that Arturo Vidal would be deployed as a central midfielder. In fact,he played very much as an attacking midfielder and had the responsibility to make runs into space beyond Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sánchez.

Spain struggle with Chile’s hard pressing

Spain was not able to circulate the ball within the final third. Chile began at a furious pace. As expected, Jorge Sampaoli asked his players to play a high-energy pressing game in midfield, which involved Arturo Vidal and Charles Aránguiz taking up advanced positions.Vargas and Sánchez were positioned in a higher line. Both pressed very aggressively against the centre-backs, who often had to play back to Iker Casillas.

The wing-backs contributed to the first line of press as part of a five. The whole Chilean side played aggressively and moved up. However, the intensity in Chile’s game had noticeably diminished even before halftime. But Spain couldn’t exploit Chile’s breathing spell.

Chile’s approach

The advantages of the 3-4-1-2 were not only on offense. Defensively, Chile could switch to a 5-2-2-1, with five at the back. The two strikers adjusted to the Spanish central defenders and Vidal man-marked Sergio Busquets or Alexis Sanchez dropped deeper to overload the midfield. Spain looked lost and were imprecise in their passing. In addition, the Chilean central players could pick up some loose balls, draw fouls in tight situations, or be able to reach the centre line again in possession of the ball and move immediately to the flank.

The first goal came as a result of pressing. Chile intercepted a pass from Xabi Alonso; Alexis Sánchez, Arturo Vidal and Charles Aránguiz combined on the right; Aránguiz cut the ball towards Vargas. The 24-year-old scored from inside the six-yard box. Every Spanish attempt at a tackle failed.

Chile were well worth their lead, but Spain created a clear chance in the 27th minute, Diego Costa bouncing a half volley inches wide following good play by David Silva in the build-up. Just before halftime, Chile made it 2-0. Sánchez took a free-kick. The ball swung towards Casillas, who elected to punch. The ball fell straight to Aránguiz, who toe-poked it into the net.

Spain regrouped in the second half and came out looking better. Costa had another big chance in the 49th minute, but the striker’s shot was deflected wide. Two more chances followed minutes later. Chile went into a deep 5-3-2. In response to Spain’s more incisive football, Sampaoli withdrew his wing-backs and played a five-man defensive line. Later on in the match, the defending champions had to open and Chile became again increasingly more powerful and dangerous.

Build-up structures

The focus in the early build-up play was on the centre and the half-spaces. Previously,Chile had problems in the build-up phase of the game, but after ten minutes Diaz took much more initiative in possession. He dropped between Gary Medel and Gonzalo Jara, outnumbering Spain, allowing more creative freedom.

Moreover, this setup enabled some interesting attack and build-up structures. With a five-man middle row, the shifted balls could be played quickly and securely. Breakthroughs have been made by Vargas and Sánchez in conjunction with the moving up of the wing-backs. With XabiAlonso and Busquets playing as a double-pivot, Sampaoli realized the importance of attacking through the wide areas.

Spain on the other hand, doubled up on the right wing, which had to do with Pedro, who played wide out. He found some pockets of space in between Diaz and Mena, but his diagonal runs were not a threat. Chile simply outclassed Spain on a summer evening in the Estádio do Maracanã.

Key Player of the Match

Alexis Sanchez. The 25-year-old was absolutely brilliant. He was all over the park and was hugely influential on the game. He was surging into Spain’s half as he pleased and causing chaos in there. His pace exposed the lack of mobility of Spain. He touched the ball 55 times and had three successful tackles in the game. He also made two interceptions (according to WhoScored). Apart from that, the Barça man was the key player in the counter-attacking system.

Where does this leave them?

Spain’s era came to an end. La Roja will not now be adding that second star above their shirts.Vicente del Bosque’s team will finish their disappointing campaign against Australia, who have also been eliminated, on Monday in Curitiba.

With the win, Chile moved level atop Group B with the Netherlands. Both the Dutch and the Chileans will play for first place in the group on Monday in Sao Paulo. Chile have matured a lot lately. The South Americans are still some kind of a pressing machine. However, they are pressing well without making needless fouls. If they keep playing the way they have in the first two matches, they will be extremely difficult to beat. Sometimes they are concerned about wasting numerous goal-scoring opportunities– no problem at all yesterday.

This article was written by Constantin Eckner. Follow him on Twitter @cc_eckner

Read all our World Cup content here

Constantin Eckner


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