Venezuela 2-1 Chile: Borghi’s changes put Chile on top, but set-piece vulnerability proves fatal

July 18, 2011

The starting line-ups

Venezuela are through to the semi-finals after two goals from dead ball situations.

Cesar Farias’ defence and midfield were as expected – the only decision to make was upfront, where Miku played just off Giancarlo Maldonaldo, in a fairly basic 4-4-2.

Claudio Borghi was without Jean Beausejour, so Arturo Vidal moved out to the left and Carlos Carmona came into the centre of the pitch.

Chile were poor in the first half, then excellent in the second. Venezuela were never particularly inventive, but retained a threat from set-pieces – and that was enough for them to win the game.

First half

The first half of this game was flat, played at a slow tempo with few goalscoring chances created in open play. Venezuela were clearly expecting an early onslaught from Chile, but Borghi’s side struggled to get the ball into the opposition third of the pitch, or to penetrate the Venezuelan defence.

One of the major reasons for this was the Chilean midfield duo. With Vidal, usually the driving force from that zone (even if he didn’t enjoy a particularly sparkling tournament) shunted out to the left, Carmona and Gary Medel were essentially doing the same job deep in midfield – neither was moving forward or showing much quality on the ball, and the Chilean passing moves were too slow. With such a defensive-minded partnership there, the onus was on Luis Jiminez to link play, but he had a poor game.

The positive aspect of the midfield duo was that with Juan Arango and Cesar Gonzalez wanting to come into the centre of the pitch, Venezuela found it difficult to construct attacks, and were no threat themselves in open play.

Chile’s weakness, as seen in last summer’s World Cup, is a tendency to concede unnecessary fouls. One of these cheap free-kicks resulted in Venezuela’s goal, headed in by centre-back Oswaldo Vizcarrondo.

Second half

The line-ups at the start of the second half

Borghi’s obvious choice from the bench was Jorge Valdivia – not fit to start, but the creative midfielder Chile were missing. It was natural that he’d play as a number ten, Jiminez would move left, and Vidal would tuck inside. The decision was whether Medel or Carmona should depart, and it was a big error from Borghi to take off Carmona.

Medel is clearly the superior player, but he had picked up a booking shortly before half-time – and leaving him as the sole holder in such an attacking side was suicidal, especially as Venezuela were going to be looking to break through the middle. Medel is no stranger to bookings, and duly picked up a second yellow later in the half – it was almost as inevitable as Diego Perez’s second caution for Uruguay against Argentina, and shows that managers need to be alert to the threat of combative midfielders picking up second bookings.

The introduction of Valdivia was a huge boost, and he was the man who created many of Chile’s attacking moves in the second half – he hit the bar himself, and played some clever balls out to the flanks. His presence was not the only thing that made Chile better, however – they simply played quicker, higher up the pitch and much more direct – Venezuela were pinned back inside their own half, with the wide players playing much deeper.

Late developments

A second attack-minded Chilean change, Esteban Paredes on for Gonzalo Jara, with Vidal moving to the left of the back three, pushed them to a 3-1-3-3, similar to the formation Borghi reverted to against Mexico earlier in the competition. This gave them more width upfront, something they’d clearly lacked until the second substitution, with Alexis Sanchez as a right-sided forward, and Paredes on the left. Venezuela now had to deal with a different angle of attack, and Humberto Suazo became much more dangerous. He hit the bar after one ball in from the right, and then scored a very similar chance soon after.

Chile were in the ascendency, attacking with a lot of players and getting the ball down the flanks well, but it was ultimately their attacking changes that cost them the game at the back. First, Vidal, in his third position of the game, got caught out and had to concede the free-kick that resulted in Gabriel Cichero’s winner. Second, Medel was sent off.

Borghi’s changes had pushed Chile up the pitch, but also left them vulnerable at the back.


The first half here was a non-event – Venezuela were waiting to soak up pressure that never came. Chile only burst into life when they brought on Valdivia for the second half, and should have scored numerous times after his arrival.

Their vulnerability at free-kicks was partly a result of their approach – playing high up the pitch means that desperate tackles when out of position are always likely – but also simply ill discipline.

Ignore set-pieces and Chile were by far the better side, but such an obvious weakness was always likely to be a problem.

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