The Breakdown: Chile v Australia

Unlike their 0-0 draw 42 years earlier in 1974, the World Cup rematch between Australia and Chile was always likely to produce goals. In fact, the tactical battle progressed almost exactly to the form guide.

Chile started strongly, pushing high up the pitch and moving the ball at a quick tempo from side to side. With Arturo Vidal surprisingly fit to start and Jorge Valdivia up front as a false nine, Chile's 4-3-3 morphed into something approaching a 3-4-1-2, with the latter operating behind the unusual attacking pairing of Alexis Sanchez and Eduardo Vargas.

The two live-wire wide forwards darted from outside to in and constantly got on the ball to drive at Australia's defence, but mixed that with dangerous runs in behind to provide a varied attacking threat.

With Marcelo Diaz playing just in front of the Chilean centre-backs to allow Mauricio Isla and Jean Beausejour to bomb forward from right and left full-back respectively - and Charles Aranguiz and Vidal occupying Australia's midfield pivot of Mark Milligan and Mile Jedinak - Chile's system was a blur of complex movement in theory that played out superbly in practice, establishing the pattern of their dominance early on.

An area of particular interest was that somewhat indescribable space between the central midfielders and full-backs, and just in front of the centre-backs, where Sanchez and Vargas looked most dangerous cutting inside. Milligan and Jedinak wanted to move forward and close down Vidal and Aranguiz but were overwhelmed by the movement of Valdivia into that zone, creating the space for the wide forwards to dart into.

Overall, Chile's goal scoring potential in the opening twenty minutes came primarily from their commitment to attack: they used the full width of the pitch, overloaded the central zone and had players making penetrative forward runs - Aranguiz for the opener, Vargas for the second, although both were scored by different players.

Of course, the by-effect of pushing multiple players forward and emphasising attacking play is that Chile inevitably left themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks. Football's all about trade-offs. The  further a player moves forward, the more space they leave in behind for the opposition, and given the remarkably advanced positioning of Isla and Mena, it was no surprise to see Australia focus their strategy around attacking quickly and directly down the sides.

Whether by long diagonals from deep or straight balls from the full-backs, Tommy Oar and Mathew Leckie were constantly provided with lots of service, supported by sporadic overlapping threat from the full-backs (who were, understandably, more reserved than has been the case under Postecoglou, clearly because of the threat by Sanchez and Vargas). Initially, it was Oar who had most of the running. Although his delivery was poor, Gary Medel's cynical handball to prevent a counter-attack demonstrated his threat on the break.

Gradually, though, Leckie on the opposite side became the key player - constantly motoring forward with power and pace, carrying the ball into advanced positions and then looking to cross into Cahill. Ange Postecoglou's efforts to embrace Cahill's aerial ability have been obvious in his short tenure (most noticeably in the farewell friendly against South Africa), and Australia created a stream of chances from simple balls whipped into the air, especially in the second half.

It was a particularly profitable strategy because of the sheer mismatch between Cahill and Chile's centre-backs - with their only natural centre-back, Marcos Gonzalez, amazingly left out of the squad, they had no player over 6ft at the back. Cahill's prodigious leap meant he simply dominated them in the air, most obviously for the goal, as well as the disallowed header.

Cahill's goal (the 11th of his past 13 Socceroos goals that have been scored with his head) sparked Australia's revival, and they dictated the flow of the game in the second half. Mark Bresciano's lateral movement in the playmaker role was crucial. He benefited from Australia's improvement in terms of possession retention, distributed the ball cleverly to the wide players and came close to an equaliser with a sharp volley at the far post that stemmed, unsurprisingly, from a cross.

With his side on the ropes, Jorge Sampaoli turned to Jean Beausejour from the bench, switching to an orthodox 4-3-3 formation and using the substitute and Sanchez to stem Australia's threat from full-back. The influence of Jason Davidson and Ryan McGowan, who replaced the injured Ivan Franjic, significantly decreased, and Chile were able to regain a foothold on the game, eventually nullifying Australia's efforts to steal a point.

Beausejour's goal illustrated the importance of his introduction, but exaggerated the margin of victory. This was a generally even game, with both sides having alternate, but relatively equal periods of dominance.


Tim Palmer writes extensively on A-League tactics at