FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile – tactical analysis

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

With the suspension of football, it is a great moment to reminisce of great games in football history. And this time, we’ll take a look at the game between Spain and Chile in the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil.

After winning the World Cup and two European Cups in a row, this was the end of Spain‘s dynasty in football. Under Vicente del Bosque (Luis Aragonés was the coach with the first European cup) “La Furia” reached the highest level, delighting the world with their positional game, credits given to Pep Guardiola who coached the majority of that generation at Barcelona.

In front were Chile, playing as if they were at home with the majority of supporters. This South American team inherited Marcelo Bielsa’s philosophy due to the work he previously did coaching them at the World Cup 2010 and hiring one of his disciples, Jorge Sampaoli, to follow that path.

In this tactical analysis report, we are going to do deep analysis of the clash between a dominating team in-possession being beaten by the high pressing philosophy of Sampaoli. Furthermore, we’l look at how the Argentinian tactics outperformed this legendary team of Spain even though the stats ended up giving the Europeans 63% of possession. As José Mourinho, the current Tottenham Hotspur coach says, sometimes the team that dominates is not the one with the ball.


Spain (4-2-3-1)

Starting XI: Casillas – Azpilicueta, Martínez, Ramos, Alba – Alonso, Busquets – Pedro, Silva, Iniesta – Costa

Bench: Reina, De Gea, Albiol, Juanfran, Piqué, Cazorla, Fàbregas, Koke, Mata, Xavi, Torres, Villa

Coach: Vicente del Bosque

Vicente del Bosque played with a 4-2-3-1 – Pedro Rodriguez positioned in the right-wing, and Andrés Iniesta on the other side. In the first half, Jordi Alba as left full-back attacked much more than César Azpilicueta. Iniesta tucked in, positioning himself next to David Silva, both as advanced midfielders. Diego Costa was the only striker – another trait of this dynasty using only one striker.

Chile (3-4-3 False nine/3-4-1-2)

Starting XI: Bravo – Silva, Jara, Medel – Isla, Aránguiz, Díaz, Mena – Vidal – Sánchez, Vargas

Bench: Herrera, Toselli, Albornoz, Rojas, Beausejour, Carmona, Fuenzalida, Gutiérrez, Orellana, Valdivia, Paredes, Pinilla

Coach: Jorge Sampaoli

Sampaoli used his most common formation with a 3-4-3 lineup. In this case using Arturo Vidal as a false nine behind Alexis Sánchez and Eduardo Vargas. Eugenio Mena (partnered with Marcelo Díaz on the opposite side) and Mauricio Isla played a pivotal role in this formation as wing-backs with defensive and offensive duties. The back three had a great game defending at a high pace in 1 v 1s as the other team-mates were pressing higher.

Chile high pressing

As expected from a Sampaoli team, Chile gambld and deployed a high press which was maintained throughout the game against one of the best national teams in possession on the planet. This was one of the keys of Chilean victory, also credits have to be given to Bielsa’s philosophy of man-marking. Spain, as said before, used a back three to build-up, with Jordi Alba positioned higher.

This was perfectly read by Sampaoli who used the front-thee to man-mark each of these players with the help of the central midfielders when Xabi Alonso or Sergio Busquets dropped in the central pocket. In the next picture we can see the front three plus Díaz in a man-mark press.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

This pressing was exhausting for Spain as it was a high tempo pressing maintained throughout the game. The pressing in some parts of the first half was even tougher using the left wing-back Mena to press on Azpilicueta and releasing Vidal to press Iker Casillas, reducing the options of Spain build-up even further, as we can see in the next picture.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

Chile defensive overload in the middle third with fast transitions

The key to Sampaoli’s strategy was the middle defensive overload when either Silva or Iniesta looked to connect the ball in central areas. Another great tactic from Sampaoli was reducing the possession of the best players in Spain. Chile deployed an intense press on the midfield, surrounding Spain players in possession at a high pace and reducing the time and space they had on the ball.

In the next picture, we can see Iniesta surrounded by four players, who ended up collapsing with pace once he received the ball in the central area.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

What made this overload even more effective was the help of the front line, which is another common tactic with Bielsa’s philosophy – even though he focused on attacking, all the players also have defensive responsibilities.

In the next picture, we can see Vidal dropping to create that 4 v 1 overload in the middle areas, this time with Silva receiving the ball.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

Chile also used this overload in the midfield to create scoring chances once the ball was recovered. In the next sequence of pictures, we can see how the goal was scored.

In the first picture, we see once again a defensive overload in the middle third – recovering the ball in a situation that allows them to play in number superiority.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

Once the ball was recovered, this overload scenario allowed Chile to play the ball forward and quickly transition forward into offensive positions.

Apart from the front three, Charles Aránguiz joined the attack, creating a 4 v 4, collecting the ball in the box and assisting Vargas for a great finish.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

The high tempo in which Chile played throughout the match was delighting as they never retreated from the strategy of overloading the midfield areas.

In the next picture, we can see in the 90’ a ball played into the central area and four Chilean players ready to collapse and press the receiver.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

Spain’s opportunities

Spain, forced by Chilean pressing, played in a high tempo using their individual and collective quality, creating opportunities to score regardless of being pressed excellently. Due to this high pressing, gaps were created behind Chile midfield.

In the next picture, we can see Silva dropping in that advanced area with lots of space to receive the ball and face the goal.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

Sampaoli instructed the Chilean centre-backs to mark Silva or Iniesta higher up the pitch when they positioned themselves in the gaps between the two lines.

In the next picture, we can see Francisco Silva following Iniesta while being covered by the wing-back Isla.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

This same scenario ended up creating chances for Spain, with one of the back-three staying higher to mark players in those advanced areas as huge gaps were created to be exploited by Costa if not covered properly.

In the next picture, we can see one of the best chances created by Spain, in which Iniesta attracted a centre-back, and assisted Costa. One attribute of this Chilean team that allowed Sampaoli to play with a back-three is their pace to recover, which forced Costa to miss the goal on this one.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

High tempo second half

After conceding a second goal from a set-piece, Spain needed to win due to the first game loss against Holland, so Del Bosque became much more attacking-minded, with Alba and Azpilicueta advancing at the same time.

In the next picture, we can see Pedro in possession of the ball being underlapped by Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba joining the front line wide on the weak side, with Silva and Iniesta as number 10s.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

Chile reacted to this high offensive strategy by sitting deeper with the strikers Vargas and Sánchez marking their side’s full-backs.

In the next picture, we can see Vargas on defensive duties marking Azpilicueta, with Vidal and Sanchez also positioned defensively.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

Regardless of playing against one of the best teams in the world in an ultra-offensive shape, we did not see Chile abandoning their style of attacking. These next two plays show the essence of Bielsa in his disciple, taking a high risk to convert more goals even when winning.

This scenario created an incredible second half with an astonishing high tempo with chances for both teams. In the next picture, we see Chile attacking with Felipe Gutiérrez who replaced Arranguiz on the ball and five teammates joining the attack. This scenario followed one attacking principle of Bielsa’s philosophy: six players on the attack occupying the five lanes.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics

The next pictures show one of the best plays of the game, nearly scoring the third goal that would have meant an early end of the match for Chile. Fast combination play after an offensive transition and we can see both wing-backs arriving in the box.

The ball ended up being crossed by Mena and Isla missed but this kind of combination in the attacking third between the two wing-backs is a blessing for football lovers.

FIFA World Cup 2014: Spain vs Chile - tactical analysis tactics


This high tempo game dictated by Chile gave a lesson to a team of the calibre of Spain. La Furia had some opportunities due to the individual quality that could outplay the exhausting and demanding pressing of Chile, but even when chances were generated, Costa was always forced to miss due to the commitment of the South American defenders.

It was a clash of different philosophies in which a possession team with great individuals ended up being outplayed by a direct team with the right strategy and the desired attitude. Bielsa’s philosophy shown in the strategy of Sampaoli plus the aggressiveness of Latin players defeated one of the best teams in football history.