THE Confederations Cup concludes on Sunday and we asked international football analyst Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his thoughts on the final between Chile and Germany.
Chile v Germany | Sunday 19:00 | ITV
The Confederations Cup reaches its conclusion on Sunday night and there’ll be a new name on the trophy as Chile take on Germany in St Petersburg.
The two nations were paired together during the group-stage, playing out an entertaining 1-1 draw. The stalemate can be backed at a peculiar 121/50 (Marathon) – that’s 3.42 in decimals.
Chile ended a 99-year wait to secure their first piece of silverware in the summer of 2015. Twelve months later La Roja followed their maiden Copa America success with a second continental title and Juan Antonio Pizzi’s squad are desperate to pick up another trophy ahead of next year’s World Cup.
Pizzi picked a strong and experienced squad featuring 11 players with more than 50 international caps and the South American nation have made a big deal over the occasion – three national TV stations are screening the games live and one was broadcasting from Russia at 7am on the day of the Chile’s opener.
It’s true La Roja impressed in fits and starts through the group-stage before reverting to their typical knockout approach against Portugal in the semi-final encounter. Chile have made a habit of holding vaunted opponents at bay before winning a penalty shootout following a 0-0 draw.
Argentina were twice frustrated when being defeated in the past two Copa America finals but Chile’s final-four success over Portugal this time around wasn’t quite as bland. La Roja enjoyed the better opportunities to break the deadlock and probably should have sealed their final spot before the shootout.
Pizzi’s posse dealt comfortably enough with Portugal’s threat despite their ageing squad enjoying a day’s less preparation time in Russia. Having looked alarmingly open against Germany and Australia in their previous two outings, La Roja’s more conservative approach paid dividends.
The standard 4-3-3 saw Pablo Hernandez came into midfield to add some cool solidity to the block, freeing Arturo Vidal to play a roving role; sometimes false nine, at others deep in his own half, and at others wide on the right, allowing Mauricio Isla to stay deep and squeeze the space that Cristiano Ronaldo was looking to exploit.
A similar system looks likely for Sunday with Pizzi well aware his charges could pay the price if they run out of steam, as they did when playing Germany earlier in the competition.
When they last locked horns…
As already mentioned, the finalists met in the second match in Group B in a game that finished 1-1. The opening 30 minutes was arguably Chile's most impressive showing of the tournament as they opened the scoring and probably should have added a second before being pegged back just before half-time.
The key theme was La Roja’s jaded second-half display. Fatigue is a major concern for a side that demands constant intensity and is playing in their fourth straight summer of major international football. There’s certainly an argument to suggest Chile have been heavy-legged in Russia.
However, there are obvious positives. The suffocating high press caused Germany plenty of problems, directly leading to the first goal, as well as a number of other chances. As long as Chile pick the right time to press and don’t attempt to play at 100mph for the full 90 minutes, they can compete.
Germany improved in the second-half of that earlier meeting, deservedly picking up a point. The four-time World Cup winners were bamboozled by the incessant energy of the South Americans but soon worked out how to stem the red tide by becoming more physical and destructive.
Die Mannschaft reverted to a 5-4-1 formation out of possession but never did look entirely comfortable so whether Joachim Low has ways in which to enhance his side’s defensive structure ahead of Sunday remains to be seen.
Earlier this month, Low was forced to defend himself against accusations of “making the heart of football fans bleed” by choosing to tackle Germany’s Confederations Cup campaign with an inexperienced squad rather than a first-choice roster.
Russia’s World Cup organising committee head Alexey Sorokin claimed Low’s decision went against the whole idea of a fan attending a football match – to watch the stars.
Low’s unrepentant riposte that “something has to give” when it comes to the workload forced upon the game’s best players was fully justifiable whilst the world champions’ performances over the past fortnight will have offered a degree of vindication.
Before arriving in Russia, Low suggested one or two players might be capable of squeezing into his star-studded squad for next summer’s World Cup. But following a series of encouraging displays, Die Mannschaft’s supremo admitted even more could force a way into the reckoning.
Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka and Lars Stindl have notched seven goals between them and the next wave of emerging talents really have caught the eye going forward. In total, Germany have racked up 11 goals already and tanked Mexico in a fairly one-sided semi-final contest.
The team has grown in to the competition; they could (and should) have shredded Australia in the opener but since recovering from a below-par first-half against Chile, it’s been pretty much one-way traffic. It’s probably fair to say Germany have been the better side in seven of the eight halves they’ve played.
The obvious concern is at the back with the pre-match favourites yet to shutout any of their opponents. Goalkeepers Bernd Leno and Marc-André ter Stegen have failed to instil confidence whilst Shkodran Mustafi has also come in for some justified criticism.
The betting angles
Chile arrive having claimed just one success in six (W1-D4-L1) despite scoring first on four occasions. In fact, La Roja’s only win at the Confederations Cup came against Group B whipping boys Cameroon.
However, the South Americans’ major tournament record deserves maximum respect (W11-D7-L2). It’s one competitive reverse in nine now for La Roja and four in 17 overall, whilst the outsiders have also enjoyed an extra day’s rest.
The question that requires answering is, will Chile persist with their no-thrills approach to knockout football? Speaking to the press, Pizzi hinted they would and so it’s worth reiterating a few stats and trends from previous encounters during the latter stages of major competition.
La Roja kept three clean sheets in the knockout rounds of last year’s Copa America and only conceded once during that stage when also successful in 2015. Indeed, four of their past seven knockout games were settled by no more than one goal, suggesting a low-scoring contest could be our best avenue of attack.
With so many frontline German players absent, it’s unadvised to read too much into previous form for the world champions but I do believe a cautious approach could be in the offing for Die Mannschaft. There’s a good degree of respect from Low towards the Copa America champions and Germany will have learnt a lot from the group-stage contest.
With that in mind, our best bet could be to have an interest in two low-scoring correct scores. The 0-0 (9/1 188BET) – winner in each of Chile’s past two finals – and 1-1 (29/5 Betfair) – winner in the group-stage encounter – are the obvious candidates here with the 11/2 (Betfair) on either side winning on penalties is also of interest.