Chile relies on Alexis Sánchez’s nose with the national team, despite his problems in Milan, and on a miraculous recovery in time for Blackburn Rovers striker Ben Brereton, to hurry up the few qualifying options for the 2022 Qatar World Cup that he has remain.
In the last two days of the South American qualifying round, La Roja will face Brazil and Uruguay.
With just 19 points, two below Peru and three less than the Charrúas, the task seems titanic for those led by Martín Lasarte, since it does not even depend on itself: it needs to win its two games but also for its immediate rivals to fail thunderous shape.
First in Brazil, where he will run into a team that has already qualified but with a squad determined to show Tite that they have a place in the group of chosen ones that will travel to the Persian Gulf at the end of the year.
The competition in the yellow team is spectacular, especially on the attacking front, where the five-time world champion has an exuberant bouquet of players with the label of world stars. And the options to “fall in love” with the coach are scarce, since there are hardly any FIFA dates left on the calendar.
A hypothetical victory at the Maracana would open the few hopes that remain for Chile, which just four days later will receive Uruguay at the San Carlos de Apoquindo stadium, in the north of the capital.
Diego Alonso’s men are fourth, with 22 points, one more than Peru, the team they face in Lima on the penultimate date, before traveling to Santiago. With four more, those led by Luis Suárez are guaranteed the play-off and with six the ticket to Qatar.
The same happens to the Peruvians, who need to score points against Uruguay and Paraguay to ensure at least the playoffs, provided that Chile wins its two games. Everything indicates that Ecuador will be the one to win the third place in the classification: with 25 points, a victory in Quito against the Paraguayans would confirm their pass.
In this scenario, the Chilean coach Lasarte presented on Monday a list of summoned to which five men returned who were not last January (Enzo Roco, Zacarías López, Jean Meneses, Luis Jiménez and Diego Valdés), in addition to Arturo Vidal.
And in which the presence of Brereton stood out, despite the ankle problems that have kept him in the dry dock in recent weeks, and the reluctance of his club, which has expressed its desire that he not play.
According to his coach, Tony Mowbray, the striker is expected to fly “to Chile on the 20th to report on the 21st, where they will evaluate him. It’s back and forth and we think you shouldn’t take any chances with it. But they called it and they have the right to do it,” he stated.
Almost ruled out for the meeting in Brazil, Martín Lasarte wants to explore the possibility of having his participation if Chile reaches the last date with some option.
“He has had a great time with his country and is loved by the people of Chile. He doesn’t want to turn his back on them and I wouldn’t want him to. But he must know that the club is the one that pays his salary, “admitted the Blackburn manager, for whom the chances that he could play” are very slim.
“If I get to play with Uruguay it depends on the result against Brazil. But I repeat, if your participation is not necessary, you will be on a plane back, ”he insisted.
WITH ALEXIS AS HOPE
In this context, Chilean hopes are pinned on Alexis Sánchez, a player who has been heavily criticized in recent weeks in Italy – there is even speculation that he will leave Inter Milan at the end of the season – but who seems to be transforming with his country.
He was the hero of the two previous days and the maker of the few hopes that remain for Chile thanks to his double in the La Paz mud that allowed Bolivia to break.
Together with him, Martín Lasarte will have to choose between the experience of Luis Jiménez, Palestino’s veteran scorer, the hunger of Meneses (León, Mexico) and Joaquín Montecinos (Tijuana, Mexico) and the flashes of Eduardo Vargas, another of the great Chilean strikers who, however, are going through a bittersweet moment at Atlético Mineiro.
The latter is emerging as Alexis’ teammate at the Maracana, where the wonder boy hopes to reach 50 goals for the national team.
Although given the preferences of the Uruguayan coach of La Roja, the chosen one could be Jiménez, a purer center forward and in better shape -Vargas has barely played three games with Mineiro since he overcame his last injury- who helps to fix the centrals and offer the spaces that “the seven that everyone trusts” enjoys.