Chile are peppered with talent, but it is an Argentine who is the unlikely hero of their renaissance. Chile's national side was in a depressed state when Marcelo Bielsa took charge three years ago, with finishes of ninth and seventh respectively in the 10-team qualifying group for the previous two World Cups. Bielsa implemented a 3-3-1-3 formation and gradually moulded a dynamic, youthful team sprinkled with players from the Under-20 side that finished third at the 2007 World Cup.
The senior side qualified for their first World Cup since 1998 in second place, a point behind Brazil and five clear of Argentina, who they beat for the first time in a competitive fixture. Chile's game is based on winning the ball high up the pitch and keeping possession. At their best, they can be mesmerising. After the friendly victory over fellow World Cup qualifiers Slovakia in November, defeated coach Vladimir Weiss likened Bielsa's side to Barcelona, adding: "They don't let you get near the ball."
Aim: Bielsa insists he has nothing to prove in South Africa despite Argentina's exit at the group stage when he was in charge of them eight years ago. Unburdened by expectation, Bielsa's Chile will aim to fare better this summer.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
GARY MEDEL Medel is known as The Pitbull for good reason; a fearless ball-winner in midfield or at full-back, he has graduated from the Chile side that finished third at the Under-20 World Cup in July 2007. He had already made his senior debut by then and has been a constant fixture in the side since his competitive bow in the fifth round of World Cup qualifiers two years ago.
ALEXIS SANCHEZ Known in his homeland as The Boy Wonder, Sanchez was first capped at 17 and provides trickery and searing pace from the right side of Chile's three-man strikeforce. The media-shy youngster is happy enough to take the limelight on the pitch - quite apart from his love of a step over, he scored three goals in the World Cup qualification campaign as well as creating many of his team's 32 goals.
HUMBERTO SUAZO Chile's barrel-chested star striker could miss the first two World Cup matches after injuring his left hamstring in the friendly victory against Israel. He was the leading South American scorer in the World Cup qualifying campaign with 10 goals and was the only outfield player to start all 18 games for Chile. He arrived on loan at Spanish club Real Zaragoza in mid-January from Mexico's Monterrey and showed his strength, close control and eye for goal by scoring six times in 17 matches.
MARCELO BIELSA Bielsa is nicknamed El Loco - The Madman - due to his train-spotter like obsession. He boasts a legendary library of football videos and breaks down each game he studies into five-minute segments, using different colour pens to note down scoring opportunities, the percentage of possession and patterns of play. He has even been known to check pitch measurements by pacing them out, while his unusual methods also include allocating separate training times for different parts of the squad.
ADOPT THEM BECAUSE...
They could be the competition's great entertainers. Their coach, Marcelo Bielsa, has been described as "the most attack-minded coach in the world." He is thorough too - bringing 2,000 videos of the opposition to watch when he led Argentina at the 2002 World Cup.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Chile's World Cup qualifying highlights
L 2-0 Argentina (A) W 2-0 Peru (H) D 2-2 Uruguay (A) L 3-0 Paraguay (H) W 2-0 Bolivia (A) W 3-2 Venezuela (A) L 3-0 Brazil (H) W 4-0 Colombia (H) L 1-0 Ecuador (A) W 1-0 Argentina (H) W 3-1 Peru (A) D 0-0 Uruguay (H) W 2-0 Paraguay (A) W 4-0 Bolivia (H) D 2-2 Venezuela (H) L 4-2 Brazil (A) W 4-2 Colombia (A) W 1-0 Ecuador (H) Qualified in second place in South American standings
WORLD CUP BEST
1962: The battling hosts pipped Italy in the group stages and upset the Soviet Union in the last eight before losing 4-2 to Brazil.
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