Chile can go all the way

Chile surprised many people by knocking out defending champions Spain and qualifying for the Round of 16 with a game to spare. How far do you think they can go in this World Cup?

Hamann: This wasn't a shock result for me. I rate Chile very highly.

After this performance, I absolutely believe they are contenders to win the tournament.

I rate them higher than even Holland.

There are three teams whom I rate as favourites: Argentina, Germany and Chile.

We know, of course, what Germany are capable of. Argentina didn't play well in their first game against Bosnia and Herzegovina, but maybe the pressure of the opening game got to them.

Unlike Brazil, Argentina still have room for improvement. But Chile are really a very good side. In the run-up to the World Cup, they beat England 2-0 comfortably in a friendly at Wembley.

They even played Germany off the park in another friendly, even though they lost that match 1-0 in Stuttgart.

Going forward, they have two excellent players in Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal.

The whole team have energy and stamina, and they recover the ball quickly. With these qualities, they have a chance to beat any team.

What do you think went wrong for Spain in this tournament?

Hamann: The biggest mistake Spain coach Vicente del Bosque made was to play Diego Costa as striker.

He has been disappointing. His style of play simply doesn't suit this team. He's direct and physical, the sort of player you use to come off the bench to chase a game and rough up defenders.

Goalkeeper Iker Casillas has come under plenty of criticism too, and rightly so because he made two or three big mistakes. But you couldn't have foreseen that happening, especially since he had just won the Champions League with Real Madrid last month.

But to play Costa was the biggest mistake. This team could have done so much better if they had played without strikers, as they had done in the past by using Pedro Rodriguez or Cesc Fabregas as a false No. 9.

Do you think del Bosque made the wrong decision in dropping Gerard Pique and Xavi Hernandez?

Hamann: It sure looked that way. But, if you look at the first match against Holland, both these players didn't do too well either.

It was clear the coach needed to change something. Perhaps he should have left out either one of his two defensive midfielders - Xabi Alonso or Sergio Busquets - and played Xavi instead.

Spain needed more attacking power as they needed a win.

Do you think the age factor played a part in Spain's demise?

Hamann: They still have some players at a good age, and these are good attacking players as well.

They just looked mentally tired. In the recent past, the players were very sharp and had the ability to win the ball back quickly.

They played the usual high-pressing game, but that works only when all of them do it right. In the last two matches, there was always at least one player who was a yard slow and when that happened, all the other players pressed for nothing.

As a result, the opponents got the chance to get up the field and to counter-attack. In football, it doesn't take an awful lot to lose your edge.

It's a very fine margin that separates the good from the mediocre. Spain were not in good condition in Brazil. They just didn't have that something extra that was required.

Dietmar Hamann has played for Bayern Munich, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester City. He won the Bundesliga in 1994 and 1997, and the treble of the FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup with Liverpool in 2001, besides the Champions League in 2005. He has 59 international caps for Germany and played in the 2002 World Cup final.

npsports@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 20, 2014.
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