Juan Antonio Pizzi was elected the best possible candidate to take the reigns of the Chilean National Team. From Jorge Sampaoli who decided it was time to make the switch back to club football in the most dramatic fashion going against Football Federation Chile, the ANFP. An argument that went on for weeks as $ampaoli wanted hi$ clau$e paid…and the ANFP wanted Sampaoli to pay his clause out…don’t we just love South American football drama?
After discussions, Sampaoli was allowed to leave, having reached an agreement.
We can say the ANFP were caught out of left field trying to find a candidate. ‘El Ingeniero’ Manuel Pellegrini did not want the Chilean National Team, others from within Chile too. So where did the man who saw fit come from?
Juan Antonio Pizzi
Pizzi, an Argentine born represented Spain on the international stage, capped in one World Cup and a European Championship, however, at club level he totalled 221 appearances in Spain scoring 92 goals.
After retiring he chose to start up his managerial career and he did so back in his hometown Santa Fe but after three losses he got the boot.
Now I’m not going to sit here and write about his illustrious managerial career because it really wasn’t. Let’s face it, the second most exciting thing to happen to Mr Pizzi was making Universidad de Chile Champions of Chile, and if you’re Chilean like me you would understand just how big that was.
Fast forward to 2016 and THE most exciting thing to happen to Pizzi (in football) was being named new manager of the Chilean National Team on January 29th 2016.
Chile National Team
I’m not going to beat around the bush and say I was or even my family was over the moon of the appointment of Pizzi, we were all still reeling of the Sampaoli-gate drama and at the same time trying to remember where Pizzi was all this time, and also coming to terms that yes, he was our only option.
The media frenzy in Chile was out of control with this new appointment and were glad to see such a civil agreement and completely remove itself from the Sampaoli saga.
The contract with the Chilean National Team will see him take La Roja through to the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
Pizzi was viewed to, as Sampaoli did, take the reigns from the ex-coach and inherit the players and style of play. No pressure right as he did inherit the ‘Campeones de America’.
Pizzi’s first task was, as we Chileans all expected, was to go to the Copa Centenario and win the tournament. That he did. Tick.
On to qualifying for the World Cup.
South American World Cup qualifiers are in my opinion the toughest in the world. How do only the top four (fifth play-off) qualify from a continent that is what football is all about??? I know, life’s tough.
So after all the Bi-Campeon celebrations toned down Pizzi’s job was not done, it had only begun.
Pizzi has not had the best of starts in these qualifiers, (1-0-2) sitting seventh, it’s still early but there are alarming signs.
The sign…there was only one
If you want to coach Chile you need to be ready to deal with powerful characters but at the same time why want to change something that is pretty much perfect?
Now, by those powerful characters, one player that deserves his place in the squad is Jorge Valdivia. One of the best midfielders in South America both in his prime and now as he gets older (like wine) did not under Pizzi.
Why? – To justify his exclusion in the squad Pizzi explained that after evaluating different factors albeit, fitness, past performances with the team and playing time and all that, one that outweighed the others was the competitiveness of the league he was playing. Valdivia is currently playing in the Arab Emirates at Al-Wahda scoring five goals this season…
The whole he left at the Copa America Centenario was evident even though Chile ran out Champions. Missing his vision, style of play, the combinations between Vidal, Sanchez and Fernandez but other than that, having him on the field you know and we Chileans know we’re are in good hands and can win.
Valdivia is Chile’s number 10 and sadly there are no players in my opinion that can do what he does. He isn’t a box-to-box MF like Vidal he sits in the midfield reading plays, threading that through ball, manoeuvring out of tight spaces and taking control of the game.
Chile’s slow start this year in WC2018 Qualifiers has been bad to watch. Plays aren’t coming off as they would, players seem ‘half-arsed’ and there is just a massive whole in the midfield!!!
It sucks Chile’s national team is an aging one and yes there will be a time where these players like Valdivia will not be called but as of right now Chile need him and he is not done yet.
Finally he saw the light
So why did Pizzi wait until three matches to realise, “gee, what was I thinking, I guess we need Valdivia more than we had thought…” uh, yes!!!!
One of the players that spoke out about his absence was Alexis Sanchez and now that Valdivia has served his four match suspension he is ready to be selected for the matches against Ecuador and Peru in October and he was.
So was Pizzi just waiting for him to serve his suspension or….did Chileans and me just take it personally, lol. yes.
Time to look forward
These two matches are do or die for Chile’s WC2018 campaign and these are six points we should take. Easily.
With Matias Fernandez unfit Valdivia slots right back in fortifying the midfield alongside Vidal and Aranguiz/Diaz and it should be like he never left.