The current holders of the Copa América, having won the competition in both 2015 and 2016, will start their title defense in Sao Paulo against Japan on June 17. Here we present a run-down of the players selected for the 23-man squad that will vie to make it three trophies in a row.
On first glance, one could be forgiven for thinking that this squad does not look capable of winning the Copa América. The squads’ star players are coming off the back of disappointing club seasons and are probably beyond their best. The squad also lacks fresh talent.
Although Chile’s Columbian manager, Reinaldo Rueda, has selected some players without substantial international experience, he has not opted to gamble on any young stars. The average age of the players on Chile’s Copa América squad is 29. There are only 3 under 25 and only 6 from Chile’s domestic leagues.
It is then perhaps easy to see why many suggest the players from the golden generation, a squad that won two major titles and gained global recognition, are not only fading but, more importantly, are not being replaced.
It is difficult to see though where the next generation will come from and it is disappointing that Rueda has not offered a chance to more of the nation’s future stars. Just last year we published an article naming some of the game’s future stars and it’s disappointing to report that only one of those, goalkeeper Brayan Cortés, has made it into in the reduced 23-man squad.
Read about these future stars:
All Change Between The Posts
It is in goal where Rueda’s selection has been the bravest and most positive. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the 23-man squad selection was the omission of Claudio Bravo who has been the guardian of the goal for Chile for the best part of a decade. Instead it will be Gabriel Arias, long in the shadow of Bravo. Arias has only 5 caps but his Club Racing had an extraordinary season last year to win the Argentinian Premier division. It was a season that has deservedly earned him the number 1 spot for Chile. Playing second fiddle to Arias will be the young keepers Cortés and Yerko Urra who both play in the Chilean leagues with Colo Colo and Huachipato respectively.
Not Much New In Defense
Chile employed a five-man defensive line in recent friendly games and may opt to go with the formation again. Rueda has plenty of alternatives and a vast array of experienced players to choose from here but there’s nothing especially exciting about his picks. It’s business as usual for Mauricio Isla, Jean Beausejour, Gary Medel, and Gonzalo Jara, who are almost assured a starting place. There were also picks for Óscar Opazo of Colo Colo who impressed against the USA in a friendly in March. There were also spaces for Pablo Díaz and Guillermo Maripán who play their football in Saudi Arabia and Spain.
Midfield Will Be The Key
It will be Arturo Vidal who will lead the Chileans in midfield and be the face of the squad on just about every other billboard and TV commercial. The Barcelona man will arrive in Brasil looking to forget a dreadful final few weeks of the season. He will be accompanied by old hands José Fuenzalida, who had an excellent season last year with U. Católica and Pedro Hernández.
The other star players who will need to contribute in midfield are Charles Aránguiz of Bayer Leverkusen and Eduardo Vargas of Tigres UNAL. If these two especially can perform well then Chile might stand a chance. Erick Pulgar of Bologna and Diego Valdés of Santos make up the rest of the midfield.
Where Will The Goals Come From?
Rueda has named only five out and out strikers in his squad. It will be Nicolás Castillo, Eduardo Vargas, and Alexis Sánchez who likely lead the line for Chile. Júnior Fernández and Ángelo Sagal may feature up front at some point, but likely from the bench or in match 3. Sánchez will be the headline player and will present the biggest challenge to opposition defenses but he has not had a great domestic season at Manchester United. Castillo has been in form and has found his feet at international level.
It’s unclear whether Rueda will employ two strikers as he opted against México and the USA or return to the familiar line of 3. It would have been nice to see an opportunity for a young attacker, someone like Víctor Dávila who has been doing well in México or closer to home, someone like Ignacio Jeraldino who is having a fantastic season at Audax Italiano. Chile struggled to find goals in recent games and it is certainly a concern whether they really have enough firepower to worry opposition defenses.
John is a volcanologist, sports fan, radio broadcaster, and accomplished musician. Born and raised in Britain, he has travelled extensively for his research on volcanoes. Whilst living in London, UK, John performed in the punk bands ‘And Now We’re Even’ and ‘Filthy Militia’ recording six studio albums and two EP’S over this time. He currently lives in Santiago, Chile where he works as a university professor in rock mechanics.