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Author: Federico Aquè

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For the second year in a row, Chile has won Copa América, once again in a penalty shootout in the final against Argentina. The first two titles in Chile’s history have roots that date back almost 10 years: it was the choice to sign Marcelo Bielsa as manager in 2007 that laid the foundation for this recent success. Seven of the players who started in the last Copa América final were pillars of the Chile national team already in 2010, the first great milestone Bielsa achieved.

Besides most of the starting squad, in 9 years not even the playing style has changed, perfected by Jorge Sampaoli, manager from 2012 until last January and one of Bielsa main disciples, succeeded by Juan Antonio Pizzi, the coach who led Chile in their most recent, triumphant Copa América.

For several years, Chile has been an aggressive team with a focus on verticality, and their pressing, the tactical tool that perhaps best expresses their playing style, was one of the keys to their victory in the last Copa América.
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An example of the final match against Argentina illustrates Chile’s “man-oriented” pressing. Mascherano moved in between the Argentinian centre backs to begin the play. The ball is passed to Funes Mori on the left, but any possible back pass is covered. Aránguiz stepped up to cover Banega, Isla followed Di María to midfield, Fuenzalida marks Rojo.

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It would not be accurate to reduce the description of Chile’s pressing simply to one-to-one man marking. One of the strong points is the speed with which the Chileans are able to read the play and to react accordingly.
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The development of the play shown previously is illustrated above. Aránguiz left Banega to support Isla and Fuenzalida and to outnumber Di María and Rojo in pressing as they attempted a give-and-go pass. The Chile midfielder, Marcelo Díaz, gets ready to shorten the distance, while Vidal is ready to come out against Banega and support a counter attack if his team recovers the ball. This is precisely what happens, but the play was all in vain because of Vidal’s poor control.

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It is interesting to see how Pizzi has always preferred asymmetrical formations, staggering the players differently depending on which side the opposing team tries to use to develop the play, especially to ensure that the most important offensive player, Alexis Sánchez, does not waste too much energy running after the opposing fullbacks.
It is thanks to this tried and true mechanism that Chile did not concede any goals in the 3 elimination matches, confirming their status as the best team on the American continent.
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Federico Aquè
Federico Aquè is the editor-in-chief of La Giocata. With a degree in Literature, he has collaborated with Sprint&Sport, Datasport and Sportmediaset. He founded Calcio Critico and writes for L’Ultimo Uomo

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