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Chile’s 33 miners finally taste freedom – so who do they all support?

14 Oct

Unless you’re an idiot living in a dark hole, you probably heard the miraculous news out of Chile as all 33 miners were finally brought to the surface after two months and nine days underground. Well, now that they are healthy and free, it’s back to the pub on weekends to watch their clubs compete in the Chilean Primera División. Who do they all support? I thought you’d never ask.

We must start with Franklin Lobos, the former Chilean footballer and the 27th man lifted out of the mine. He bounced around quite often throughout his career – ten teams over fifteen years. His only title came in 1983 winning promotion to the first division with Cobresal – coincidentally a team from a mining region with a miner’s helmet on the crest. Upon exiting the capsul, Lobos was presented with a signed ball by his daughter.

Omar Reygadas came out of the mine and was promptly given his club’s flag – Colo Colo (pictured at the top). He is one of the twenty miners who support the Santiago side. The team sent an autographed jersey to each and every one of the twenty miners.
Jimmy Sanchez and eleven others support Universidad de Chile, based in the capital of Santiago as well.  After Sanchez wrote a letter to the players of his beloved club, the directors decided to award him and the eleven others lifetime entrance to the stadium for all matches. Sanchez also exited the capsule with the flag of his “most beloved club.”
Daniel Herrera Campos was the sixteenth miner rescued. An avid supporter of Audax Italiano, he too received an autographed jersey from the club, pictured below with manager Omar Labruna. Upon hearing the news that the team was trapped and Daniel was a supporter, they signed the shirt and sent it to the mine shaft.
What are they returning to? Well, after 26 matches, Colo Colo sit top of the table with 57 points. Universidad de Chile are only three points back in 2nd place. And Audax Italiano sit 4th on 47 points.
I hope all these men enjoy what will surely be a lifetime of free football matches. 

World Cup Group H Preview

3 Jun

Honduras and Chile have Spain to thank for bringing them a language to speak.  A wonderful foil to Switzerland – the neutrals – who split their time between French and German. With all eyes on holders Italy and the group of death, don’t sleep on the tournament favorites in Spain. Watching them play is a masterpiece. Each pass, each movement is a different artist’s stroke on the canvas. And Chile is everyone’s sleeper, with such an attack minded style, that paint their own works of art. This could very well be an exciting group of matches from top to bottom.

La Furia Roja as they are called back at home. “The Red Fury” After a masterful performance to win the European Championship in 2008, Spain comes to South Africa with high expectations and plenty of confidence. I want to use this space however to discuss where they are susceptible and how such issues may plague them down the road. Casillas is coming off his worst season in a long while. Still a top 5 keeper in the world, maybe even top 3, but he has let in a number of howlers that leaves them a littttle uneasy. Next is the holding midfielder position. Spain won in 2008 largely because of Marcos Senna, most likely their most valuable player of the tournament. With him off the squad, Del Bosue will probably turn to young Sergi Busquets. What he has accomplished this past season for Barcelona is something dreams are made of. Every single game he got better and better. He is mature beyond his years. The other option is Xabi Alonso, who I have always contended is not at his best when defending is the priority. And then Javi Martinez of Athletic Bilbao (also 21 years old like Busquets) who is enjoying his first call-up to the national squad in his career. The answer must be Busquets and I have plennnnty of faith he’ll be ok.

Now to the forwards – Del Bosque’s biggest problem at the moment. El Nino Torres has had a career full of injuries and Luis Aragones was forced into a 4-5-1 formation without him leaving Villa up front all alone. It worked…but it was ugly. In fact, it didn’t work. I only say it did because Spain kept winning. Without Torres, Del Bosque must keep his 4-4-2 and employ another striker to work off Villa. Fernando Llorente would be perfect to hold up the ball and allow Villa to dart diagonally off of him. OR, Pedro. At 22, this boy will be one of the best strikers Spain has ever seen – mark my word. You don’t necessarily need someone to hold it up. Pass your way through. Don’t forget – Puyol, Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, and Villa ALL play for Barcelona and aren’t strangers in the slightest.

The defense has actually improved with Pique, and slagged off with Sergio Ramos more and more forgetting to come back and defend. Spain play a high back line which they need to be wary of.

Honduras enter having qualified 3rd from CONCACAF – congratulations on getting in but no real chance of getting out of this group. They have a couple of well established talents in Carlos Pavon (the team’s leading scorer in qualifying…he’s also 36), David Suazo, and Wilson Palacios who plays for Tottenham and has quite the “Strahan.” Perhaps their greatest strength is chemistry and love, always admirable traits of any successful team. I expect them to finish last in the group.

Having not participated in ANY war EVER, Switzerland have managed to assemble a rather decent soccer program. This will be their 9th appearance in the World Cup and will be managed by Ottmar Hitzfeld. Switzerland topped their group in Europe over Greece and Israel in somewhat of an uninspiring fashion. When healthy, Alexander Frei, Hakan Yakin, and Eren Derdiyok can be an exciting trio of players to watch in attack. They too will struggle. In a word? This team is “Eh”

Lastly, poor surely not least, comes Chile – EVERYBODY’S sleeper team for this tournament (not mine though. I picked Serbia remember?) I confess to not having watched many of their games but I can tell you this. Don’t short change them for finishing second in South America qualifying only a point behind Brazil, while scoring the second most goals of any team. Manager Marcelo Bielsa has put together a group of young, unrecognizable stars to do his dirty work. Yet it is anything but dirty, as he has employed an attacking flair which has taken everyone off guard. Attack, attack, attack is the name of Chile’s game. I am very excited to see it in action.

HOW IT WILL PAN OUT: Spain will coast and Chile will finish up in second.

GAME OF THE GROUP: Any of Spain’s 3 games. They play the game as it should be played.

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