- Capital: Santiago
- Official Languages: Spanish
- Nicknames: La Roja (The Red One); El equipo de todos (The team of everyone)
- Association: Federación de Fútbol de Chile (FFCh)
- FIFA Code: CHI
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Third Place (1962)
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Group Stage (2019)
- Best Copa América Result (Men): WINNERS (2015, 2016)
- Best Copa América Result (Women): Finalists (1991, 2018)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 3rd (April-May 2016)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 36th (December 2019, December 2020)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 84th (December 2002)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 125th (June 2013)
- Most Capped Player: Alexis Sánchez – 136 caps [as of Feb 2021]
- Top Scorer: Alexis Sánchez – 45 goals [as of Feb 2021]
The Republic of Chile is situated along the western coast of the South American continent, stretching along the majority of the length of the Andies mountain range. The Chilean national team has a long internation history with the FFCh being the second-oldest South American federation (founded in 1895), whilst being one of the founding members of CONMEBOL. They would subsequently take part in the very first Copa América in 1916, and then later become one of the teams to compete in the inaugural World Cup held in Uruguay in 1930. Throughout their history, they have regulary qualified for World Cups although generally no more than two consectutive World Cups before missing out in the third for some reason. Their best World Cup result was finishing in third place in 1962, a World Cup which they hosted, beating Yugoslavia 1-0 with a 90th minute winner from Eladio Rojas.
However despite their long history, Chile were known for not being able to win the Copa América, finishing as finalists on four seperate occasions. However when a golden generation developed throughout the 2010s, they finally put that hoodoo to rest when they claimed their first Copa in 2015 on home soil, beating Argentina on penalties after a goalless final. They subsequently followed it up for the following year in the special Centenario edition held in the United States, again beating Argentina on penalties to successful defend their title. Alas their golden era is coming to an end with a load of their star players coming towards the twilight of their illustrious careers, with the Chileans missing out on qualification for the 2018 World Cup despite being South American champions at the time. It will be interesting to see how Chile develop in the next ten years as they transition from their golden generation to the next generation of Chilean players.
Talking about a side who finally managed to break their Copa América hoodoo by claiming their first continental title in 2015, and then followed it up with their second in the 2016 Copa América Centenario, is the excellent Jimmy Milner, a Welsh-based Everton, Everton de Viña del Mar, and Everton La Plata supporter, who is part of the @theruleteros. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
- Jimmy’s Twitter: @Ruletero_Toffee
- Ruleteros Society’s Twitter: @theruleteros
- Ruleteros Society’s Website: http://www.ruleteros.com/
In addition, we also interviewed the superb Twitter account Guigarrincha about La Roja. They are a Chilean-based Brazilian groundhopper, who also collects football shirts from the country (as well as from around the world). To find their social media accounts, follow the link below:
Key: JM = Jimmy Milner; GG = Guigarrincha
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
JM: It would have to be a rather modern player, which most of the English Premier League will know, by the name of Alexis Sánchez. He has been by far the best player the national team has seen, in addition to his times at Barcelona and Arsenal, where he shone even with some star players playing with him. As for the manager it has to be Jorge Sampaoli. Under Sampaoli, Chile returned to the energetic, high-pressing game of Marcelo Bielsa, the former Chile coach who inspired Sampaoli’s managerial philosophy as he was very much a disciple of Bielsa.
GG: Probably Elías Figueroa is the greatest Chilean of all time. Despite good names that emerged in the last few years, and also during the 90s, in Chile it’s difficult to compare with Don Elias. A very known history about his career was when the Brazilian football federation offered him a blank check to become Brazilian and join their national team. He was noted for his elegant style of play and was awarded the South American Footballer of the Year award 3 times in a row during the 70s which could be very hard for a defender competing with some Argentinian, Brazilian, and Uruguayan talent at the time.
Fernando Riera, the Chilean coach in 1962 World Cup when they’ve reached third place playing in their home soil is regarded as the best Chilean coach of all time. However, Marcelo Bielsa put Chile back in the international scene again changing the Chilean style of play and leaving a lot of widows here.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
GG: Carlos Caszely is one the Chile cult heroes for his fight against Pinochet dictatorship. Before the 1974 World Cup, Caszely (who would be the first player to be sent off in a World Cup) refused to salute Pinochet, closing his eyes instead. He also revealed that his mother was tortured by the regime. Also, in order to qualify for this World Cup, Chile needed to play against USSR. The first leg in Russia was 0-0 but then the Soviets refused to travel to Chile and FIFA ordered Chile to enter into the field to validate the game, something which was heavily criticized by Caszely.
Currently the cult hero is the “magician” Jorge Valdivia. One of the few Chilean players which have that flair expected by a South American but not very common in Chile, and combined with his personality, made him a supporters’ favorite.
JM: Arturo Vidal – although not necessarily a traditional ‘cult hero’, he is well regarded in the German, Italian and Spanish leagues with his ‘never say die’ attitude and his technical mastery of the midfield.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Chilean national side currently?
JM: As above, it is Arturo Vidal, he maybe at the wrong end of his career but is still the most talented midfielder that Chile has to offer.
GG: I would say Charles Aránguiz, now captain at Bayer Leverkusen, is the best Chilean player at the moment. While big names like Vidal, Alexis and Gary Medel struggle in Italia, Charles kept his low profile, and despite some injuries, he’s kept at his good level and despite not being outstanding he always delivers good performances.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
GG: The current state of the national team is a complete mess. Since the departure of Jorge Sampaoli, two new federation presidents, and two coaches, they still couldn´t find a suitable replacement for him. Uruguayan Martín Lasarte was appointed as the new coach, and despite having no international experience, he has already managed two of Chile’s biggest clubs and knows the local product. Hopefully the appointment of Francis Cagigao, who has been working with Arsenal for several years, as the new ‘national technical director’ can finally create a project for the new generation of players as the current one is ageing and probably will miss out of the next World Cup at this pace.
JM: The team is aging now, and it was a golden generation of the Copa América wins of 2015 and 2016, but they are in the twilight of their career. Chile is a small but proud country, however it might be a little bit of a wait until a new crop of players, as good as the previous one, will all come along together. I don’t want to sound downhearted because I genuinely believe that the country is only really behind Brazil and Argentina (with the possibility of Colombia also) in terms of talent. So I can still see them qualifying and doing alright in the World Cup in Qatar.
Q. Are there any Chilean players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
JM: I am going to be very controversial now but I am going to suggest two players from my club side Everton de Viña del Mar, Gary Moya and Rodrigo Echeverría. Both of them play in the midfield ‘engine room’ and I really love the way Moya is progressing. He is very clever at making space and finding his team mates with a telling pass.
GG: Carlos Palacios [20 year-old forward playing for Unión Española] shone out this year and probably is the best prospect for the years to come. He primarily plays behind the strikers and is capable to find space and enter into the area creating a lot of dangerous situations. Coming from a club outside the ‘top 3’ in Chile made him progress more than other “wonderkids” that needed to deal with the pressure of the supporters. Unfortunately some talent has been wasted as some agents moved some young kids to Mexico thinking they’ve found their new Alexis but unfortunately stopped their progress like Martín Arenas or Víctor Dávila [23 year-old attacking midfielder at León].
Q. Looking at Chile’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
GG: Winning the Copa América in 2015 on home soil probably was the icing on the cake of a progress that started with the appointment of Bielsa in 2007 and then Sampaoli in 2012. Chile had never won this tournament before, and to get it in front of the home fans against Lionel Messi in the final was probably the best result of the national team. I still believe that the 2-0 win against Spain in the 2014 World Cup was the best game of the national team I remember, especially given the underdog condition Chile arrived in. Chile played extremely well and the scenes of the fans chanting the national anthem was something amazing.
- FIFA’s Highlights of Chile vs. Spain at the 2014 World Cup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djsHW7j_5W0
JM: It must be winning the Copa América for the first time on home soil in 2015 and beating the old enemy Peru 2-1 in the semi-final. They also smashed Bolivia 5-0 in the group stage which was a brilliant performance. One of the matches which I really have to mention is the when Chile travelled and beat England 2-0 at Wembley in 1998 with the captain Marcelo Salas stealing the show by scoring a spectacular first-half volley, before winning and then scoring a second-half penalty.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
JM: By losing 3–0 to Brazil in 2017 in the World Cup qualifying, Chile failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, causing an end to the golden generation period, and Peru went to the finals instead.
GG: The Maracanazo in 1989 which led Chile to be banned from the 1994 World Cup qualifiers was a dark page for the team, but in terms of performance, finishing in last place in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers was probably Chile’s lowest point despite the great performance in 2000 Olympics [winning the bronze medal], which ultimately led to a false confidence.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Chilean national team?
GG: In Chile it’s very interesting that there is no general interest in club football like in other South American countries such as Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay. However, when the national team plays there is a sense of national feeling and people will usually gather, and it’s a perfect excuse for a barbecue. During the 2014 World Cup in Brazil you could feel that the Chileans at the stadium would behave differently from the locals that were usually wearing their local clubs shirts. So, in the end, the good thing about being a national club supporter is that feeling of belonging, whereas the bad thing is to depend heavily on the results of the national team. Honestly, one of the best atmospheres that I’ve experienced in football was the Copa América final in 2015 with more than 30k flags waving at the same time.
JM: The best thing about supporting the national side is different for me being British but I have family and friends out in Chile, and I also support Everton de Viña del Mar, one of the big sides in the country.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
JM: “¿A dónde se fue tu océano?“
Which means ‘Where’s your ocean gone?‘, which was sung to Bolivia in a recent qualifying game. It is a reference to when Bolivia had lost their coastal region to Chile [in the War of the Pacific / Saltpeter War between 1879-1883].
GG: “Chi Chi Chi Le Le Le Viva Chile” is by far the most used chant by the supporters to cheer up the team and, at least, is very famous in South America.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
GG: The 1998 Reebok shirt used in the World Cup is by far the most iconic and recognizable Chilean shirt of all time. Despite some other national teams having that same design, that shirt got immortalized by Iván Zamorano and Marcelo Salas.
JM: The game I mentioned before, the 1998 Reebok shirt from the England versus Chile game is the most iconic to me. It seems to be fondly remembered by a lot of shirt collectors worldwide too.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Chilean national team?
JM: I hope they can make it to the World Cup in Qatar and build from there. I think it just needs to be better managed from the top down. They chop and change ideas a lot, trying to look for a winning formula when maybe they should stick to a steady approach and change it gradually.
GG: There is always hope for the national team. Having not qualified for the last World Cup was a big blow for the supporters, and it is still very uncertain if we can qualify for the next World Cup as the South American qualifiers are very competitive. Hopefully the new manager will find a solution to mix the young talents with some established players from Europe and we can win the next game against Paraguay at home, because in the last qualifiers we lost 3-0 and that was the key for not qualifying.
A massive muchos gracias to Jimmy and Guigarrincha for answering our questions on La Roja. Remember you can find their excellent accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at email@example.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.