On the back of two consecutive defeats an under-strength Chile face a difficult task when they host group leaders Argentina in Santiago on Tuesday (1.05am BST, Wednesday Morning), hoping to get their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.
Chile had led the qualifying group following a 2-0 away win over Venezuela in June, but recent defeats have seen them slip outside the top four automatic qualifying places to fifth. That position would yield a two-legged playoff against the fifth placed team from the Asian Football Confederation.
The latest came in the form of a 3-1 loss away to Ecuador on Friday, a result that could have been much worse had Chile’s hosts been more clinical in front of goal.
Chile were reduced to ten men before the hour mark when Pablo Contreras was sent off for a second bookable offence. One feels Ecuador would have won even without the numerical advantage, which came as a direct result of their unrelenting attacking approach rather than any stupidity on Contreras’ part.
Chile’s strategy was flawed and coach Claudio Borghi must take the blame. The last thing you want to be doing at the altitude of Quito is chasing the ball for the majority of the match, which is exactly what his team ended up doing.
Borghi employed Alexis Sanchez up front by himself in a 3-5-1-1 formation, with Matias Fernandez just behind. Sanchez is an excellent footballer, but he is not suited to holding up the ball and bringing others into play. The lack of a strong central presence up front made it difficult for Chile to keep hold of the ball, thus offering them little respite from the incessant Ecuadorian offence.
Chile’s misery was compounded when Arturo Vidal was sent off for an elbow to the face of Luis Saritama five minutes from time, meaning he will join Contreras and defender Osvaldo Gonzalez (yellow card accumulation) in missing the Argentina match through suspension. Others, including Sanchez, looked dead on their feet by the final whistle in Quito.
But selection issues are far from the only problem for Borghi. Public discontent is growing, with a ‘Borghi Out’ message scrawled on the wall outside the national team’s training facility on Sunday. With the shadow of successful Universidad de Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli lingering ever more menacingly, Borghi’s position could be under serious threat if his team do not obtain a positive result on Tuesday.
His opposite number Alejandro Sabella is facing no such worries after leading his team to the top of the group with four wins in their last five qualifiers. The latest victory came on Friday, an impressive 3-0 triumph over their historical rivals Uruguay in Mendoza.
Argentina were untroubled in defence and resplendent in attack, Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria and Sergio Aguero weaving a myriad of intricate patterns through the Uruguayan defence. Javier Mascherano was superb in the centre of midfield, showing excellent reading of the game to consistently close off the space in front of the back four.
Messi scored twice, the second a cheeky low free kick under the jumping wall and into the bottom corner. He was excellent throughout, intelligently linking midfield and attack, passing incisively and drawing “olés” from the crowd when his feints flummoxed the Uruguay midfield.
He has now scored 11 times in seven matches for Argentina in 2012, including two hat-tricks in friendlies. He has scored in four of their last five World Cup qualifiers and is likely to be among the goals once more in Santiago.
Sabella has few selection concerns ahead of Tuesday’s match with striker Gonzalo Higuain appearing to have overcome a hip problem to retain his place in the starting eleven, leaving full-back Marcos Rojo as the only doubt. Hugo Campagnaro will take Rojo’s place if he does not recover in time.
Argentina cleverly chose Mendoza as the venue for the Uruguay match, leaving them just a short hop over the Andes to Santiago, lessening travelling time and keeping the squad fresh for Tuesday’s encounter.
Chile v Argentina Betting Tips Verdict
Argentina are in excellent form and with Chile (best price of 4/1 with Boylesports to win) weakened by suspensions – especially in an already suspect defence – and fatigue it is hard to see the home side getting a result.
Argentina prevailed 4-0 when the sides met at the start of the qualification process and although the score may not be so emphatic this time around they are clear favourites to emerge victorious.
- Therefore, back Argentina to win @ a best price of 11/13 (those odds are a bit better than 4/5) with Pinnacle. Incidentally the draw is also the biggest price with Pinnacle at 31/11.
- Following a superb brace against Uruguay, Messi is likely to be among the goals once more. Back Lionel Messi to score at anytime @ 8/11 with Bet365 or William Hill.