Wednesday 21 June 2017, 11:11

Chile banking on defensive cover and mental strength

  • Diaz, Puch and the importance of defensive cover against Germany

  • Key words: seamlessness, coordination and know-how

  • Mental strength will also be vital against the world champions

By Diego Zandrino, with Chile

Chile are a team who focus on one thing when they take to the pitch: the opposition goal. The full-backs like to get forward, the midfielders hit diagonal balls to catch the rival defence off guard and the forwards waste no time getting into the box.

Inevitably, however, comes the need to drop back and defend. A key aspect of the game, the defensive transition is one that La Roja seem to have mastered. “We’re so used to making that tactical switch that it just comes naturally now, which is crucial,” Chile central midfielder Marcelo Diaz told FIFA.

One of the men entrusted with providing defensive cover, Diaz added: “Those of us who have a tactical job to do need to be very watchful so that we can solve the problems that crop up during a game. It all helps our team-mates to get forward into goalscoring positions.”

That job falls not just to the defensive midfielders but to the wide men as well. In Chile’s opening match against Cameroon, Edson Puch was more than once seen dropping back to cover the full-backs as they made runs forward.

“If we don’t coordinate our defensive cover properly then it can be dangerous,” Puch told FIFA. “We are coordinated though, because the players know each other really well. That’s why Chile are a tough team to score against.”

Diaz v Puch Ages: 30 v 31 International debuts: 2011 v 2009 Caps: 54 v 17 Goals: 1 v 2

Providing defensive cover becomes even more of a pressing issue when Germany are your next opponents. Young and technically gifted with it, the Germans are quick and precise when it comes to switching from defence to attack.

“It’s essential that we’re watchful, alert and focused,” said Diaz. “And we need to do it even better than we did against Cameroon, simply because of the team we’re coming up against.”

Puch pointed to the need to analyse Germany’s organisation and strengths to make sure Chile do not get caught out. As he went on to say, however, the challenge is far from a new one for La Roja: “Chile are used to playing teams of this standard. I’m confident everything will work out.”

Inside knowledge  The midfielder added that the mood in the Chile camp is one of guarded optimism: “When you come up against the world champions you need to be very strong mentally and you need to be in form. And I think we are.

“Aside from all the victories and the cups, that’s been Chile’s biggest achievement. Our mental strength and positivity are what makes us the team that everyone sees.”

Diaz, who played for Hamburg in the Bundesliga in 2015, had this to say about the Germans: “ Ter Stegen, Mustafi, Hector and Kimmich are the ones who stand out, but I know all of them and they’re very good. That’s why it’s going to be tough, even though they’re a young team. Most of them are experienced and play for big clubs.”