Chile begin as third favourites in the betting for Group B success, but have the slight advantage of playing on the South American continent in their favour. A technically talented Chilean squad won’t be overawed by the task of facing European heavyweights Spain and Holland, with their aim solely focused on causing a huge upset by making their way into the knockout phase of the tournament.

  • By David Lee Wheatley
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vidal chGoalkeeper Claudio Bravo will be crucial to their hopes of confounding the critics, with the Real Sociedad star expected to endure constant punishment from the Spanish and Dutch when they meet. Bravo will be confident of stopping his La Liga counterparts in particular and he’ll be required to be at his very best to keep them from notching freely. The defence ahead of him is a mercenary collection of players from all over the world, with Mauricio Isla of Juventus perhaps their most assured performer.

The midfield is an area filled with ability, including FC Twente star Felipe Gutierrez, who helped his club to a commendable third-place finish in the Eredivisie last season. He will be one of a long list with an inside track on one of their Group B foes due to his two years featuring in the Dutch league and will be ably assisted by highly-rated Juventus central midfielder Arturo Vidal, a complete footballer closely followed by many of Europe’s biggest clubs with a view to a potential post-World Cup transfer. Just to illustrate his importance, Juve head coach Antonio Conte immediately selected the ‘Gladiator’ Vidal when asked who he’d most like to take into battle with him. Meanwhile, defensive midfielder Gary Medel and winger Jean Beausejour will be names familiar to English viewers thanks to their representation of Cardiff City and Wigan Athletic respectively.

Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez is the stand-out attacker and he will be key to Chile’s chances of progressing past the group stage. The ex-Udinese man is quick, diminutive and skilful beyond the level of most around him in the squad. Should Bravo manage to keep clean sheets at the back, then the slick danger-man must capatilise on the few opportunities in front of goal that arrive into his path in order to deliver maximum dividends from each game. Fellow strikers Pinilla (Cagliari), Vargas (Valencia) and Parades (Colo Colo) will attempt to supplement the potent threat offered by main protagonist Alexis as they approach an intriguing opening match with outsiders Australia.

A solid three-point start to their campaign is imperative if they are to have any realistic possibility of a top-two finish, so they must put paid to the Aussies initially before rising to the daunting challenge posed by strong favourites Spain and Holland. It will certainly take something special for Chile to advance into the second round of the competition.