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Bielsa's early exit such a waste for Chile

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Tim Vickery | 10:00 UK time, Monday, 8 November 2010

A successful and promising relationship has come to a premature end with the news that Marcelo Bielsa will not continue as coach of Chile.

There is little point in appointing a foreign coach unless he brings something fresh - which the eccentric, but highly respected Argentine certainly has in the course of his three years in charge.

He took Chile to their first World Cup since 1998, winning more away games than anyone else in the qualification campaign. In South Africa in 2010, Chile quickly became the neutral's favourite. In a tournament dominated by caution, Chile's carefree attacking approach was a joy to behold.

The performances of the team said more about Marcelo Bielsa than they did about Chilean football.

He coaxed from his players a faithful representation of the approach that has made him one of the most interesting coaches around over the last 20 years.

His idea is always to attack, no matter where the game is played and who the opponents might be. He wants the play to take place in the opponent's half of the field. Whatever the shape of the side - 3-3-1-3 is his favoured formation - there are a number of constants; his team will always seek to play at a high tempo, with a central striker and two wingers and the aim of creating two-against-one situations down the flanks.

bielsa_595_ap.jpgThe out-going Bielsa is a man of principle and there appears to be no turning back

Before working with Chile, Bielsa was in charge of his native Argentina from 1998 to 2004. In a very significant way, Chile was easier for him.

Argentina has a highly developed sense of its own footballing identity, to which the number 10 is crucial. Juan Roman Riquelme, with his elegant, foot-on-the-ball playmaking, is the guardian of the flame. Bielsa, though, had no place for him. Rather than the changes in rhythm that Riquelme inspires, the coach was looking for all out dynamism - which left him open to criticisms that he was trying to Europeanise the national team.

During his reign it was common for club coaches in Argentina to differentiate themselves from Bielsa by stressing their commitment to 'the pause' - the moment when the old-style number 10 slows the game down in order to rethink the attack. In Argentina, then, Bielsa often found himself swimming against a powerful current.

He had no such problem in Chile. "There's been no continuity," I was told a few years ago by Elias Figueroa, one of Chile's all-time greats. "We've tried to imitate Argentina. We've tried to imitate Brazil. We've tried to imitate Germany and Spain." From Bielsa's point of view, this lack of fixed identity was a plus point. It meant that his approach would meet with less cultural resistance.

Late 2007 was also a good time to take over. Humiliated on the field in that year's Copa America and with disciplinary problems off it, Chile appeared to have hit rock bottom. The only way was up - and giving momentum to the rise was the fact that an excellent generation of youngsters had just reached the semi-finals of the World Youth Cup.

They were to prove Bielsa's raw material. His bold gameplan requires a high level of fitness. He inherited an exciting group of players with young legs and open minds, and made a team of them. Versatile defenders or midfielders Arturo Vidal, Gary Medel and Mauricio Isla, central midfielder Carlos Carmona and, above all, wonderful little right winger Alexis Sanchez were all graduates from the World Youth Cup campaign who became stalwarts of the senior side.

Bielsa's option to stand down is frustrating for two reasons. Firstly, because he and his young side could have gone on to achieve much more. And secondly, because their time together could have been even better.

Three goals in four World Cup games was a disappointing return for a side of such attacking ambition. They would surely have scored more had centre forward Humberto Suazo been fully fit. Top scorer in the South American World Cup qualifiers, he was recovering from an injury when he was unwisely risked in a warm-up match. Injured once more, he was nowhere near 100% in South Africa.

In retrospect, Mauricio Pinilla should have been in the squad. Once briefly in Scotland with Hearts, Pinilla has been once briefly with a lot of clubs in a number of different countries. The striker came close to throwing away his own career with his wild-child antics. But he has always been a highly gifted player, potentially of genuine world class - as he has hinted in Italian football over the last 18 months. Especially in the absence of a fit Suazo, Pinilla would have been a useful option in South Africa.

He has been recalled for next week's game at home to Uruguay, seemingly Bielsa's swansong in charge of Chile. The idea of Alexis Sanchez and Pinilla operating together is an appealing one for Chile fans - but after next week it will not be Bielsa's job to get their talents to combine. He is leaving because Harold Mayne-Nicholls was not re-elected last week as president of Chile's FA. Before the election Bielsa made it very clear that he would not work with the opposition candidate Jorge Segovia.

Mayne-Nicholls, though, only carried the votes of six of Chile's First Division clubs. Segovia won the other 12, including the Santiago big three of Colo Colo, Universidad de Chile and Universidad Catolica. The election was, and continues to be controversial, with conspiracy theories flying around and claims that Segovia might be prevented from taking office on complicated legal grounds.

Mayne-Nicholls, though, has made it clear that he will not be coming back. One of the major complaints about him was the grumble that he prioritised the national team and his Fifa work over the domestic championship. He recently served as the chairman of the Fifa inspection committee which visited the countries bidding to stage the World Cups of 2018 and 2022.
Polished and articulate, he cut an impressive figure. But he has been cast out by an internal revolt at the very moment when his international prestige was at its highest. As a result, the national team is parting company with one of the world's most respected and interesting coaches. Chile's new regime will have to come up with something special to make up for the loss of Marcelo Bielsa.

Comments on the piece in the space below. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) I really enjoyed watching Alexis Sanchez playing at the World Cup, and as a Manchester United supporter would love for Sir Alex Ferguson to sign him... Do you think he could make it in the Premier League?
Natalie Cass

A) I'm half surprised they haven't taken him already. He's not yet 22, but it's been obvious for four years that he is a top talent, who would fit in with United's tradition of wing play. His coach at Udinese says that he still has some maturing to do, so perhaps he would have to toughen up a bit to do well in England - and he would also need to stay on his feet more. But for what it's worth, my opinion is that he's something special and could adapt to the Premier League.

Q) Where do you think the best atmosphere is found in South America?
Jaime Begbie

A) It has to be Argentina. Some similarities with pre-Taylor Report, but some differences, too. Much more pure passion than irony, and also the importance of the drum in the songs. It sometimes seems that the game is peripheral - they've gathered for the pleasure of being together and signing those songs - which when you come away from the stadium you can't shake out of your head.


  • Comment number 1.

    I have to agree with you about the atmosphere in Argentina, the noise and constant singing is unbelievable in the big games, akin to the best of English football before the all seater stadiums and regular "sit-down now" announcements on the tannoy. The colour of the occasion is unsurpassed anywhere in the World with the massive banderas all over the stadiums and the ticker tape and balloons when the teams take to the field.

    This is not having a go at other nations in South America, the big derby games in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Ecuador are also capable of surpassing almost anything on offer across the rest of World football.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 2.

    It is a shame about Bielsa, he did really well with Chile. I wonder what he will get up to next? he surely wont be out of a job for long.

  • Comment number 3.

    excellent article as usual Tim I remember Pinilla and looked at his recent record in Italy and wondered myself why he wasnt included in the world cup squad

  • Comment number 4.

    Hopefully whoever takes over from Bielsa will continue with the basic formation and system that he used, as it was clearly v successful. With a more favourable draw Chile could have made it to the semis in the WC, I believe. They were definitely one of the best teams (and not just one of the best to watch) in the WC.
    The spain-Chile first half was probably the best 45mins of football played in SA

  • Comment number 5.

    Too bad for Chile, they were fantastic in the World Cup with phenomenal work rate, attitude and fitness. They were a real team in the truest sense of the word.

  • Comment number 6.

    A shame. Ultimate failure notwithstanding, Chile's valiant attempt to play both Spain and Brazil off the park was arguably the finest sight on show at the World Cup.

    Still, every cloud has a silver lining, and surely the AFA must now do the obvious and reappoint their former coach? I know that would be rather harsh on Sergio Batista, who's made a more than decent start, but Bielsa's style would be perfectly suited to Argentina's current playing material, and I maintain he represents the country's best chance of lifting the trophy at Maracana in four years time.

  • Comment number 7.

    With Lucas improving do you think he deserves a place in the Brazil squad.

  • Comment number 8.

    Agree with this view. Chile were a breath of fresh air in that WC and very good to watch.

    Pinilla - I remember he came to Hearts for a very brief spell - and if not very brief, then his appearances for the jambos certainly were. Looked a decent player but you never saw that much of him it has to be said and I think to be fair to the player he was a bit injury prone during his times at the club. Hearts were I believe very keen to keep him on a longer contract but I can only guess the injuries put them off.

  • Comment number 9.

    "In South Africa in 2010, Chile quickly became the neutral's favourite. In a tournament dominated by caution, Chile's carefree attacking approach was a joy to behold."


    Actually, my favourite as a neutral was Uruguay, but thanks for telling me I was wrong

  • Comment number 10.

    Don't know if he'd be intersted Tim, but if I were an English club chairman not very happy with his lot, my cheque book would already be open. Thanks for another great read.

  • Comment number 11.

    It has to be Argentina. Some similarities with pre-Graham Taylor England, but some differences, too

    Tim, this sentence in your blog I found somewhat curious- did you mean pre-Taylor Report England? The Taylor report (nothing to do with Graham Taylor, that would be Lord Taylor) is of course what led to all-seater stadiums and the death of the old atmosphere in English football grounds.

  • Comment number 12.

    i dont know how much bielsa will cost but if the Ghana football Association is listening...a world class coach just became available

  • Comment number 13.

    It's a bit difficult to imagine Fabio Capello stepping down because he didn't like who was in charge of the FA. Those South Americans, eh? They love a bit of heated politics!

  • Comment number 14.

    For those living in South America who were lucky to witness it, and to complete this article... we should mention the press conference Bielsa gave to announce (one day before the election) that, should Segovia come to power he would resign.

    He was on air for two hours and sixteen minutes, non stop talking (no reading from notes), surrounded by workbooks, binders and files which he occasionally quoted and/or waved at the press, impeccable grammar, florid vocabulary, the most articulate fireside chat ever by a football coach. His narrative was philosophical, loaded with explanations and reasoning, hinting at resignation but not overtly saying it, explaining for 25 minutes how he arrived to the decision of actually calling the press conference (without warning to Chilean football authorities) and who did he consult with before doing it; explaining in detail why the day before and not the day after the election; talking about the vocational rush he got out of coaching Chile and how money was never a factor, telling everybody in the room how happy he was every morning when going to work. He went back to Segovia's past conduct as a Union Espanola football director, once allowing a suspended player to come back to the team because they needed to win a crucial game... He stated that he would never be friends with his employers and that in 3 years he had never been to a dinner or function with an ANFP director. He told how every penny he got for motivational chats went into the national training centre. He philosophized about the impulsiveness of Argentinians compared to the moderation of Chileans and the lessons he learned from that contrast.

    The situation in Chile's football now is pretty messy (clubs are divided, big business clubs are taking over) and I do understand how a principled guy like Bielsa decided to walk away. He mentioned in the press conference how Chilean football was nowhere when he arrived and how, now that players are placed in Europe and football has taken off locally the business men descend like prey on the results of Mayne-Nicholls' efforts.

  • Comment number 15.

    11 - pre-graham taylor england! the work of an over-enthusiastic sub -editor - i had written "pre- taylor england" in reference to the taylor report.
    you have brought the addition of 'graham' to my attention.
    do i not like that!

  • Comment number 16.

    Someone Less Imaginative has a point... the Taylor Report was overseen by some Lord Taylor guy... full name Peter Murray Taylor.

    @Dani: are you sure no european coach has ever resigned for not liking the national federation president?

  • Comment number 17.

    He is a legend. Scotland should sack levein and get this guy. His 3-1-3-3 and all out pressure was a joy to behold at the world cup and they were the only team to actually cause spain prioblems.

  • Comment number 18.


    Thanks for the article. That answers my question about Bielsa in the previous blog.

    We'll have to wait and see who the new Chilean FA chooses as the next coach, hopefully they won't be going backwards, although I doubt it very much.

    For all the exciting, attacking football of Bielsa's Chile, they were always an unbalanced team. They had the talent, but they were a very "light" team.

    Talent and speed were more than enough to beat defensive teams with only strength but no talent (such as the Swiss and Honduras) However, facing teams that were both strong and talented proved to be their undoing as we saw against Brazil and Spain.

    The best comparison I can come up with is that of a lightweight boxer fighting against a heavyweight. Sure, he'll be quick and annoying for a while but the power advantage will always prove decisive.

    Unfortunately, physical presence is not something the Chileans will fix anytime soon, so they'll have to develop a different approach when facing stronger opposition, a more intelligent one than the single-minded approach championed by Bielsa.

    Hopefully, they'll be able to continue with their attacking style but in a more balanced way which may end up giving them better results. The Copa America will provide a lot of answers in this regard and if Pinilla manages to stay away from nightclubs, they may even get a decent striker.

  • Comment number 19.

    No. 17 ... and Segovia is Spanish, what goes around...

  • Comment number 20.

    Good article, but regarding the situation, you pretty much identified what the problem really was : "The performances of the team said more about Marcelo Bielsa than they did about Chilean football." --- And if I'm allowed to throw in my own two cents regarding what happened, I think Chile's 2010 was lousy when compared with 2007 thru 2009. Even in the World Cup, those 3 goals you mentioned are not indicative of a free-flowing attacking football style. I think the build-up to and during the World Cup turned off a lot of his players, that 2 month build-up along with the 2 week World Cup experience was too much for the players to handle... especially when the coach is Bielsa. The same thing happened to Argentina in 2002, the team hardly looked like the same team that cruised during qualification (and that Argentinean team qualified 1st if I'm not mistaken). Bielsa is a good coach, don't get me wrong but he may need to come down from the ledge during tournaments... his meticulous & micro-managing style has a flip-side and Chile's World Cup experience was strangley similar to Argentina's 2002 experience.

    Regarding the team, if Pelligrini eventually takes over, I think Chile might pull the upset in Buenos Aires next year... too many weapons there.

  • Comment number 21.

    # 17... ha... he would need to bring some players too!!

  • Comment number 22.


    Yes I know.....but it would be a start!! I love his style. Its all action and i think would fit in with british football perfectly. We too love width but dont produce fullbacks. Hes the same, width but minus fullbacks.

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm not sure if Bielsa could have done significantly more with Chile than he had already done, but I agree entirely with your opinion that his leaving is Chile's loss and his style of play whilst managing their national side was very enjoyable to watch, great neutral's football.

    The reason I don't really agree with you regarding how far he could have taken Chile I should stress at this point is based solely on the four games I saw Chile play at the WC, which is a poor depth of knowledge compared to yours Tim I freely admit.

    They are clearly a team on the up, in the sense that they have a number of young, up and coming players who have pace, enthusiasm and nice touches of quality that will do well against weaker opposition and cause problems for established teams. But I would argue these up and coming players are already Chile's best players and whilst no-one would suggest Chile should be churning out quality at the rate or Brazil or Argentina they are still, to my mind relatively small in number when it comes to truly top class players.

    Chile have players like M.Gonzalez who I confess I was surprised Liverpool let go after such a seemingly short and untested stint, he is pacey, a good crosser and I think really solid player. But he's not top class and I don't see him developing considerably more from where he is now. This added to other players like Sanchez and Suazo make a good side but I felt watching them in South Africa that Chile don't have a sliding scale from their best players to their weaker players. It seems you have 3-4 good players in their 11 and then some (in my humble opinion) very average players. If you want to move on to the latter stages of major tournaments you can get away with having one or two average players, perhaps even three or four at a push if your top players are genuinely top class. But with three or four veruy good (but not World Class players) and then five or six average players I think you will always ultimately find a quality world class opposition (no matter if they're on form or not) too strong.

    In my own opinion I cannot see this current Chile side reaching the Quarter finals of the WC or the semi final/final of the Copa America. And that would be moving forward from where they are now wouldn't it?

  • Comment number 24.

    Re 17, 21 and 22

    No need to new players. Bielsa REALLY can: (a) make common guys look good on the pitch; AND (b) find talent where no one else sees.

    He would be just fine in Scotland. Shame it won't happen.

  • Comment number 25.

    It would be wonderful if Bielsa could find his way to Santos in Brazil. The combination of the youthful exuberance and attacking tradition of the club with the Bielsa vision would light-up the imagination.

  • Comment number 26.

    20# pellegrini has recently taken over at Malaga

  • Comment number 27.

    #9, What a bitter, arrogant jerk you are! Tim was obviously speaking in general, so just because you liked another team doesn't mean anything at all.

    Actually, my favourite as a neutral was Uruguay, but thanks for telling me I was wrong

  • Comment number 28.


    No, Tim burdens the responsibility as a professional journalist to word things in an inclusive manner.

    He has failed to do this by telling everybody that Chile were every neutrals favourite team.

    Maybe he could have said:

    "In South Africa in 2010, Chile quickly became ONE OF THE BEST TEAMS TO WATCH FOR THE NEUTRAL. In a tournament dominated by caution, Chile's carefree attacking approach was a joy to behold."

    Bitter? No, Arrogant? No, Correct? Yes

    I'm sick of the likes of Tim trying to tell people what they thought. Although he is by no means the worst for this. Please see Graham Hunter of Sky Sports

  • Comment number 29.

    Diego Maradona for Chile coach???

  • Comment number 30.

    28 . not necessarily bitter or arrogant.
    something worse - tiresomely dull

  • Comment number 31.

    He may be a good coach but he showed poor judgement and professionalism. Should have honored his contract as a professional, and only resigned when it becomes impossible to work with the new boss. Coming out with 'threats' during the election process is just bad. Very bad..

  • Comment number 32.


    Not really Tim, you know the technique you use that I am alluding to.

    Lazy journalism, although pitched at the right level judging by some of the responses you get on here

  • Comment number 33.

    @ #9 tomefccam

    Seriously? Every time I read the posts from readers on here, yours pop up and are just smarmy little remarks. Pretentious much?

  • Comment number 34.

    Tim, despite what the foaming-at-the-mouth tomefccam thinks, I think it's a good article and do agree with you that outside of the USA, Chile were the most entertaining team to watch.

    Now notice how I think USA were the most entertaining, but I am not trying to burn you at the stake.

    This is a lesson for you, tomefccam, to only open your mouth that wide when something is of actual concern.

  • Comment number 35.

    Shut up mate, neutrals liked watching Chile, at no point did he say that YOU or EVERY neutral thought they were the favourites. You know exactly what he meant and you're just being a tool.

  • Comment number 36.

    Watching the spoilers par excellence week in week out I can see how Tom would appreciate a team more intent on breaking up the game than trying to play it.

  • Comment number 37.

    RE : 35 - attention seeker is a better term for tomefccam. He's got his wish with all our reactions to his comment but it's painfully tedious and dull as Tim pointed out.

  • Comment number 38.

    Does anyone know what the reaction to Bielsa's departure is in Chile? They definitely respected him as a coach as they granted him honourary Chilean citizenship, so I would assume they would be disappointed of the news

  • Comment number 39.

    Tomefccam - give it a rest eh! This blog is by miles the best on this site. Infact the best ive read anywhere. Dont like it, im sure Bill o reilly has a blog

    Anyway, assuming he is scandalously overlooked by the SFA, what now for Bielsa? A move to European club football or would he stay at home? I hear guardiaola may not renew his contract at the end of the year........

  • Comment number 40.

    Thanks for a great blog today Tim!

    I've often been strongly opiniated on some of your blogs, rightly or wrongly, including last weeks about Ronaldinho - a player and situation we all have some knowledge about & different opinions.

    This weeks was exactly what I read your blog for - to find out something new and different about an important part of the world in football development terms.

    Surely Chile's FA have to make approaches and open up the communication to convinc Bielsa to continue don't they? Chile have got their pride back & are at an important place in terms of progressing forward for the next World Cup, where there's no reason they couldn't "do a Uraguay"?

    Surely they can't just let him walk after such success?!

    Great blog Tim. Thanks

  • Comment number 41.

    I would just like to ask you Tim whether the selection of Pinalla would cause any friction in the squad after him spending the night in a hotel with Luis Jimenez's wife a couple years back and then subsequently being beaten up by Jimenez as a result. I know Jimenez hasn't figured in the Chile squad for a while and the squad is young but I imagine it's not easily forgotten if Jimenez has friends within the team.

    Also like to say great blog as always. Others have said it but this blog is the best on the BBC and rivals that of Guardian football.

  • Comment number 42.

    Number 28 (and a few other posts by the BORE called TOMEFCCAM) ... I've seen you post up on various BBC football blogs before and not once can I recall you ever having anything interesting to say ... you spend your entire time A) Picking holes that don't need to be picked over the way something's been phrased in the blog and B) Praising yourself. How tediously dull you are. Tim's blogs are always entertaining and more often than not enlightening. A vast majority of people who write comments seem to offer up that opinion - and I don't think they are all mis-guided. Your pedantic and slanted opinions spoil what is otherwise an enjoyable trip through the comments, must of which are placed up here to continue the debate, offer insight and entertain. Yours do none of these things - please stay away unless, by some miracle, you can accept this critisism and concentrate writing something POSITIVE. There - rant over, and to the "decent" posters - please accept my apologies!

  • Comment number 43.

    Great blog Tim, it's always good to read the insight of a non-southamerican about our football. I think Chile made a massive mistake regarding Bielsa, the chilean clubs put their national team well being below their economic interests, and the chilean people are not happy about that.
    With Brazil already in the next World Cup 2014 and as usual taking for granted Argentina's presence in the tournament, most of the people and journalists were given Chile a place as well, and with the recent performance of Uruguay and Paraguay in the last WC, South America is fighting hard for the 1/2 place which CONCACAF wants (although last week the CONMEBOL secretary said that Blatter told him that the 1/2 place belongs to South America).
    But with the recent events the fight is open for direct qualification, and good teams like Colombia or Ecuador have a chance of taking Chile's spot, maybe not with the flare exposed by Bielsa's side, but with good players and experienced managers such as Bolillo and Rueda.
    As you know the S.A. qualifiers are a fierce competition and usually go down to the wire, so as commentators say here the matches won´t be appropiate for those with a hearth condition.
    I'm also expecting a great Copa America. Before the competition took place every two years, so the "european players" wanted their well deserved holidays and it gave the manager the chance to test new players. But now, with the competition taking place every four years it has recovered its prestige and flavour. Brazil will have to test its WC2014 squad, Argentina are hosts and I suppose Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay are going with their big guns, not to mention the teams that didn't qualify for last summer's World Cup, they have a chance to sharp their weapons for the qualifiers which start by the end of 2011.

    I think europeans have a chance to watch some good football next summer, given the fact that they don't have major tournaments by that time.

    So Tim, what do you expect for the Copa America and qualifiers given the new scenary. Thanks

  • Comment number 44.

    41 - there clearly did seem to be some unease in the Chile squad about the prospect of Pinilla's inclusion in the World Cup squad - if he is a reformed character as he says, and as his performances would seem to indicate, then I suspect his ability should be sufficient to win the players over - especially, as you say, given the fact that Jimenez is not currently in the squad.

    My favourite comment on the whole affair - when Pinilla was asked by the press for details on his liasion with Jimenez' s wife, he said that "a gentleman has no memory."

  • Comment number 45.

    For me, whilst Bielsa is clealy an engaging, intriguing character with a laudable loyalty to attacking play, i can't say i'm a huge fan. Was enormously disappointed with his team selection against Brazil in South Africa - playing the pacey, more industrious yet horribly erratic duo of Beausejour and Gonzalez at the expense of their two most gifted ball-players in Valdivia and Fernandez, i felt was dreadully negative. Fernandez may not have been fully fit but Bielsa's reluctance to pair him with Valdivia (a wonderfully imaginative playmaker) was an enormous frustration.
    His obsession with pressing and tempo neglected the richly talented pool of technically gifted attacking midfielders at Chile's disposal. Mark Gonzalez i find such a frustrating player - decent ability, alot of pace and an occasionally-fine striker of the ball but his awareness and passing are dreadful.
    Whoever takes over from Bielsa, i hope he gives a fair chance to Cristobal Jorquera. Enchanting little player; bit of an underachiever thus far but still young and showing real encouraging signs of development.

  • Comment number 46.

    The main criticism of Bielsa's style here in Argentina is that when things go wrong (as in vs England and vs Sweden in 2002) the team cannot revert to 'pause' as Tim so well describes. If you go down you go down in flames, everybody and the ball included going at 100 kmh. I personally do not like vertigo as a system with no plan B.

    In the case of Chile' team these last 3 years, while it was an appropriate philosophy to win South American qualifiers (all this with a limited amount of local footballing talent compared to Brazil and Argentina), and where vertigo is a foreign element, the lack of roster depth and the number of yellow and red cards had decimated the team by the time Spain came up in the round of 16. Bielsa's teams have a way of imploding and I wonder if he will be successful in the long term. Players seem to come out wired and the pace of pressing is sometimes too frantic and counterproductive, especially when the roster is thin and you have a 5 to 7 match schedule.

  • Comment number 47.

    Meaning... Five to seven matches in a WC if you go past the round of 16, of course

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    Good blog, unfortunately very sad.
    As a Chilean, I just couldn't believe when I read about this last week...
    I was (and somehow) am still speechless. It seems we went 5 steps forward and then we give 10 steps back.

    Mayne-Nicholls did one of the best jobs ever for Chile's football. Brought Maestro Bielsa, which taught us to believe in ourselves and go out there and play freely, with no fear, go to win anywhere... Like it it happens most of the times, the goods news when Bielsa signed the new contract did not last long. These people that which are in the game not for the love of football, get involved and ruin everything.

    I just would like to thanks Bielsa for everything he did, It was the first time in my life that I enjoyed watching my country, I felt proud everytime.

  • Comment number 50.

    As a neutral, I think it's a shame that someone who was trying something different has gone by the wayside. I was a big big fan of the mid-90's Ajax team that often played 3-3-1-3 and hoped that someone would get success with Van Gaal's tactics from back then.

  • Comment number 51.

    i find the argentina fans boring apart from la bombonera which has crazy acoustic the songs are slow and probably affect the team because they sing all the time even losing like 4x0 the players must feel no pressure of changing the situation
    example : river plate.. in brazil its the contrary but i think its even worse.. public is too blasé and when the team is going bad they apply too much pressure example: invading the training centers, destroying property etc

  • Comment number 52.

    Nice article Tim. I certainly loved watching Chile in the World Cup, particularly Sanchez. In my opinion I thought he was one of the best players in the summer and was very surprised he wasn't brought buy a big club.
    I must ask you Tim what your thoughts are on this years Brazilian Serie A Championship title race. They say the English Premier League is the best in the world, but it doesnt get more interesting than Brazils Serie A. Yet again it looks like it will go down to the last game with just 4 games to go. Firstly, who do you think will win the championship? and how much of a say do you think the rivals of the teams fighting it out for the title will have? Will Sao Paulo and Palmeiras offer Fluminense a helping hand in order to deny their arch rivals Corinthians a league championship? Or Vasco and Flamengo, could the two carioca teams give Cruzeiro a helping hand to deny carioca team Fluminense a chance to become champions perhaps? It happened just last season in fact, with Gremio 'losing' to Flamengo to deny their arch rivals Internacional becoming champions.

  • Comment number 53.

    Alas Tim, for all your praise of Bielsa and Chile the fact still remains that they simply did not do the business when it counted...End of...While I would be the first to commend them for their brand of football which was a joy to watch, in truth Bielsa simply should have adopted a more nuanced approach to the game with Spain than simply trying to play them off the park which in all truth was never really going to happen...His Chile team are a highly talented bunch full of pace, guile, exuberance and even pure class but as you know in football on the highest level, the key-word is always BALANCE...That is why Chile were knocked out by Spain and that is why they will continually underachieve for as long as they do not apply some balance to their match play...No team can continually attack, and certainly not against any decent level of opposition...Sheer logic will dictate that at some point they will be exposed and punished, and that is precisely what happened to Chile...I too am disappointed at Bielsa's impending departure but perhaps his successor will be wise enough to retain the positive aspects of the team ethos that Bielsa's reign has engendered while at the same time teaching the players, how to balance their play more effectively so that they are able to attack, defend and counterattack as truly great teams can, and not simply offer some flash in the pan performances as in the past. Time will be the test and before you assume otherwise, I thank you for your informative and thought provoking blog...As always you have evoked a heated debate amongst the bloggers and I have weighed in with my two-pence

  • Comment number 54.

    I would like to respond the second question posed by the readership. It's almost 2 years to the day now since I was at La Bombonera for the Copa Sudamerican tie between Boca Juniors and SC Internacional of Brazil. I have never witnessed anything like it, after previously attending games at the Maracanã and the Engenhão whilst in Brazil on my trip the Boca experience was certainly something else.

    Especially that fifteen minutes before kick off when the band arrived on the middle tier and the HUGE flag of La Doce is unfurled. It really is a great sight to behold. The passion displayed by the fans is also something else. As Tim explains, La Bombonera would never get a safety certificate in this country, you find me a ground in the UK that has two tiers of terracing but the atmosphere generated is something I'd urge anyone with the chance to take. It's well worth the money.

    My trip cost aroud £35 at the time but included transport, food and beer. If anyone is going and needs a wingman, let me know. I'd go back and do it all again tomorrow.

  • Comment number 55.

    Another manager unorthodox manager to get the sack is River Plate boss Angel Cappa.

    It is only a few weeks since his River Plate team was being talked about as potential champions:

    Any money on Bielsa to replace him or is Américo Gallego the man for the job?

  • Comment number 56.

    CONMEBalls... great name, and I was at that game which we lost... I am glad you liked it, it really rocks the soul and the eyes. I happen to have two season tickets (call them lifetime passes as they go down from generation to generation; impossible to buy them) right at the centre line, five rows up in the only non-tiered side. If you are around next time just blog and we'll see what we can arrange.

    Just to complete the information: La Bombonera was designed by Victor Sulcic, a Slovenian architect that emigrated to Argentina in the 30's. It opened in 1940 and it sits (after deletion of standup sections and addition of new luxury boxes)57,000 in three, not two, tiers. The fact that the site is tightly bounded by streets and railway tracks made it necessary to build almost straight up, which makes the atmosphere so oppressive for visiting teams (although lately it has not been a factor as Boca is losing more than winning at home). There are not too many bad seats in the house, except maybe for the nosebleed third tier which is ridiculously high and steep.

  • Comment number 57.

    Stunned and saddened by Bielsa's departure.

    Why does politics always get in the way of football, especially in South America?

    Just as Chile had a very realistic chance of doing well at next year's Copa America, all the momentum's been suddenly lost, and they'll arrive in a mess, with a big Bielsa-shaped void as there really is noone else like him. Total lack of continuity (as usual!), and the players will be very disappointed to see him go.

    What next for Bielsa? I guess both River and Boca will be very interested.

  • Comment number 58.


    My list of games went, Maracanã, Engenhão and La Bombonera. It was a great great trip, I just with the pound would get a little stronger so I could get back there again.

    That night I went with Boca being 2-0 down from the first leg I expected them to come out all guns blazing but fair play to Inter they were just too good on the night.

    It is really an experience you can't ever really put into words properly. Just to say, if you are a fan of South American football you must make that pilgrammage to La Bombonera.

  • Comment number 59.

    58 wishes the pound would get stronger - that makes two of us, pal!

    My favourite Bielsa memory comes from the first press conference of his i attended - 1999 copa america, his argentina side had just lost 3-0 to colombia, palermo had missed three penalties and bielsa had been sent off.

    1st question - marcelo, what did you think of today's ref?

    Bielsa - as ever, staring at some fixed spot in space. "i don't have the custom of speaking about referees, but on the subject of the ref's performance today..." and i prepared for the standard he's-a-disgrace- diatribe - "I'd like to say that in respect of my explusion he was quite correct, because i complained in an ill-mannered form." Priceless.

    He has his own form of language - i read once that while he was in charge of argentina he wandered down the touchline to yell at ortega, not the most intellectual of footballers - "ariel! the offer for the reception must be vertical."
    Ortega's reply, sadly, is not recorded.

  • Comment number 60.

    Bielsa is quality mind in football, it to me seems a shame he will not continue.

    However his departure involves more than the obvious. Bielsa has carried his political ideology too close his work. Bielsa, as anyone in Argentina knows, is of the political left. His brother and sister are leftist politicians. Therefore, not surprisingly, he was exceptionally gracious with the President Bachelet when she wanted to visit and be seen (I do not say for selfish reasons) with the national team. However, after the defeat of the left in the presidentional election, Bielsa was exceptionally ungracious when President Piñera wanted to visit and be seen (again, not for selfish reaons) with the national team.

    The presidents of the clubs were simply not predisposed to automatically support Maynes-Nichol and Bielsa. First, the Chilean league has not enjoyed a similar renaissance as occurred in the national team. The league, in particular the big clubs, are not actually prospering within the current economic framework, which is ironic given the strength of the Chilean economy. Second, the leaders of many clubs are not ignoring Bielsa's attitude when it comes to which Chilean politicians he embraces publicly and which he shuns.

    Again, I think it is a shame Bielsa will not continue. His work was very good. But I believe he made this problem largely on his own, overtly choosing political sides when in reality being the manager of the national team for all Chileans would have warranted a different attitude.

  • Comment number 61.

    Bielsa goes until the end with his beliefs. One of the reasons he was severely critized once Argentina was out in the first round at Korea/Japan 2002 is that he refused to play with both Batistuta and Crespo, it was either Batigol or Crespo, but not the two of them.

  • Comment number 62.

    ok blog.
    you must be loaded earning all those bbc £££££s and living in rio... nice one!

  • Comment number 63.

    After being awarded 3 penalties Tim, how could Bielsa criticise the ref?!

    And I can sympathise about the exchange rates. My wife went to the UK from Japan 3 years ago when it was more than 220 yen to the pound, but when I came to Japan a year later the yen had recovered to around the 140 mark I think. It alway seems when I want to send money home the rate is unfavourable, and when I haven't got it, it's favourable!

    Have you any idea where Bielsa is going to go from here?

  • Comment number 64.

    36. At 5:12pm on 08 Nov 2010, Drooper_ wrote:
    Watching the spoilers par excellence week in week out I can see how Tom would appreciate a team more intent on breaking up the game than trying to play it.



    Top four finish in 2005. 6th,5th,5th in 2007, 2008, 2009.

    FA Cup finalists in 2009. Uefa QF in 2008. League Cup Semi in 2008.

    Not bad for a team of spoilers, low spending spoilers at that.

  • Comment number 65.

    Very good article again Tim. Always an enjoyable read!!

    I live in Australia now but I have been following you since the UK. It is good to have you on SBS too as you are the only one who talks/writes sense...God, I miss proper football over here (fed up with AFL...).

    The next one is for marcelao @56. I will be going to South America at the end of this year and I am planning to watch Boca in La Bombonera. My question is whether it is too complicated to buy the tickets on the day of the match? There are a few companies offering tours but they charge extortionate gringo prices...

  • Comment number 66.


    Agreed Clacky! With Cappa gone from RiBer and Borghi a defeat in the superclassico away from more than likely losing his job at Boca i'm sure both clubs will be keeping an eye on the Bielsa situation.

  • Comment number 67.


    Yeah, it can be complicated on the very day of the match, but it all depends on the opponent. Watch out: The dates for the Apertura were shifted one week back because of (former president) Kirchner's death 10 days ago so Boca has home matches as follows... November 21 vs Arsenal, December 5 vs Quilmes and December 19 vs Gimnasia. All of these are considered small teams and tickets should be readily available at the door. This would be for seats, not the terraces and they will be around $US 30 to 80. You could also buy from scalpers a few minutes before match time at reasonable prices... Boca is not competing this year so demand is low.

    As to Bielsa going to Boca or River I think neither can afford him, especially River. I speculate that Bielsa will likely not take an Argentinian team as long as the short-tournament format stays. There is big talk now at AFA about going back to a year long system though. But why would a guy like him want to step into the quagmire of local football? He could do a European big team or any of a number of national teams. Stay tunedééé

  • Comment number 68.

    #64, exactly! It doesn't make the statement any less true! And I'm afraid pleading poverty doesn't pluck any of my heart strings. Everton were one of the G5 that tried to steal a march on the rest of English football by hoarding the big tv money that was coming into the game when they were on the up.

  • Comment number 69.

    @67 Thanks for your reply marcelao. Yes, I read something about it and last time I checked the dates were not confirmed. It is a bit of shame because I will be there on the weekend on the 12th December. I will have to take photos of La Bomboner only...

    Anyway, muchas gracias!!

  • Comment number 70.

    i share some of the criticisms of bielsa's playing style written above - there is something almost adolescent about the frenetic nature of his teams' play.
    but it is wonderful in this day and age to have a coach with such a commitment to attack.
    and what he did with chile has to be put in perspective. aside from 1962 on home soil, the previous match that chile had won in a world cup was way back in 1950 against the usa.

  • Comment number 71.



    No crying poverty, just recognising that Evertons achievements in comparison to outlay on transfer fees and wages is something unbelievable. Besides, we have always gathered a crowd of 40,000 for every game so I don't see how we ever hoarded TV money.

    Also, how can a team of spoilers contain the much coveted footballing talents as Cahill, Arteta, Rodwell, Pienaar. As well as International footballers such as Jagielka, Heitinga, Bilyaletdinov, Yakubu, Saha, Neville, Howard, Baines, Fellaini.

    That is not forgetting our squad players who would easily fit into some of the other Premier league squads such as Beckford, Anichebe, Hibbert, Distin, Osman, Coleman, Yobo

    The only thing we aim to spoil is the top 4 dominance, which with Moyesie in charge we will achieve.

  • Comment number 72.


    La Bombonera is open to the public (museum included) and close to one of the main attractions in town: Caminito and La Boca neighbourhood.

    You should still try to catch a game: you could try to scalp a ticket for Banfield-Boca or go to River-Estudiantes or Velez-Huracan (these two last matches could be defining 1st and 2nd place going into the following week and the stadiums are comfortbale and easy to get to).

    Alternatively, a more relaxed small good team matchup could be Argentinos-Lanus, nice neighbourhood, little bandshell stadium and good technical teams.

  • Comment number 73.

    Really nice quote from Pinilla Tim!

  • Comment number 74.

    17. At 1:01pm on 08 Nov 2010, weezer316 wrote:
    He is a legend. Scotland should sack levein and get this guy. His 3-1-3-3 and all out pressure was a joy to behold at the world cup and they were the only team to actually cause spain prioblems.
    Does completely nullifying the Spanish attack and then scoring against them to win the match 1-0 count as causing problems? If it does then I believe that Switzerland may have also caused Spain some problems...

  • Comment number 75.

    Tim, what happened to this weeks Football Phone In? There is no podcast available.

    Also, whats the best (cheapest) way to call from Brazil to England to participate?

  • Comment number 76.

    Tim, who cares if it's adolescent or infantile football if, as you say, the end product is more successful, and entertaining into the bargain, than the many years of more 'mature' football before it?

    #68, I agree, pound for pound, Everton are arguably the best team in the EPL, and David Moyes has done a fantastic job, but I'd much rather watch a Bielsa team. I'd be interested to see how his football would get on in the EPL.

    P.S. My dad's a Sligo Rovers fan. They should have got a lot more than the 150,000 I think they got for Seamus Coleman. If you'd signed him from the continent, it would have been over a million at least

  • Comment number 77.


    Forget the bmbonera, apart from the occasional big game its a half-empty morgue these days, much better off checking different stadiums like maybe Racing's.

    Aguante Chaca!

  • Comment number 78.

    Good to see you've calmed down from your earlier tirade tomefccam, from a neutral's perspective you were talking waffle.

    As for Everton being the best pound-for-pound side in the PL (never EPL incidentally, the word England or English is not the title, unlike SPL) that is either wonderful loyalty talking, or alcohol. Pound-for-pound Blackpool or Stoke probably hold that honour, though I think Manchester United are the realistic answer - its not expensive to spend £Ms on players if they bring league titles and the European Cup, plus huge resale value. £12.6m on Ronaldo (sold for £80m) or Fellaini for £15m?

  • Comment number 79.

    75 - there was a strike at the bbc, so the world football phone in didn't happen - normal service should be resumed this week.

    you could try sending an e-mail to with your question - they may well phone you.

  • Comment number 80.

    Number 77:

    The only thing that is in the morgue seems to be your brain ... or it could be that you are paying too much attention to who is coming up from la B Nacional these days to play the Promocion? Will it be Union? Atletico Tucuman? Ha, it could even be Boca Unidos!!!

    Salvatore said 12th of December... Racing plays in Mendoza that weekend; nice stadium though!

  • Comment number 81.

    I said LIKE racing's, any other staidum will do.
    The reality is that these days the bombostera is one of the most boring stadiums in the country, half the "fans" are tourists.
    Are you going to deny that? Do you even go? Were you in El Ducó earlier this year when we thrashed you 4-1?

    Yo no se porque será que a San Martín
    Los bostero ya no quieren ni venir
    Será porque tienen miedo de cobrar
    Porque Chaca se la aguanta de verdad
    Ahora no tenes perdón
    Bostero puto sos cagon vas a cobrar
    Vas a correr, como paso la ultima vez
    Dale dale dale dale Funebreeee
    Dale dale dale dale Funebreeee
    Dale dale dale dale Funebreee
    Dale dale dale dale Funebreeee

  • Comment number 82.

    I can imagine Salvatore trying to make his short visit worthwhile... very useful... 'LIKE Racing's' is a really good tip... I do go to the Bombonera every home game(if you had read the posts carefully you would already know that... that is two times you have missed something) and it is not half full of tourists and it is not boring.

    ADD can bring you down... what's next? B Metropolitana? See you in Primera some other century, funebrero analfa

  • Comment number 83.

    So are you going to deny that the bombonera is half-empty except for the big games???
    That the atmosphere is good compared to the other stadiums of buenos aires???

    I remember when it used to be an intimidating place to go. Now teams like lanus and aaaj go there and makes themselves at home! La bombonera has long lost its mistique.

    que seamos buenos entre nosotros, eh?

  • Comment number 84.

    I read that Bielsa is first choice for the RiBer job, but it seems highly unlikely that he will come, his contract does not end with Chile until next year i believe and Passarella wants the next coach to be in place before the Boca game next Tuesday.
    I understand that Gallego is second choice, but he doesn't want to start until after the Boca game in order release the pressure somewhat. If he accepts an immediate start then he will be the next coach.

  • Comment number 85.

    Thanks for your replies marcelao and bosterososvigilante

    I will definitely try to watch a game in BA. Out of these two that could potentially decide Apertura, River and Velez, when do they start selling the tickets to the general public? I have read that you can buy Boca tickets at La Bombonera on the morning of the match day (don’t know if it is true though). Do the other clubs do the same?

    Once again, many thanks for your information guys!!

  • Comment number 86.

    You can buy tickets at the stadium for most matches unless its a really big game, a few clubs are socios only.
    If you have to buy in advance, its always the 2-3 days before the game. You wont have a problem getting velez tickets, probably not for river either.

  • Comment number 87.

    The poor innocents who think the Bombonera has atmosphere.compared to River they are nothing.even in our worst ever moment River gets more than double the attendance of Bocas.Any doubts get yourself in front of your tv or computer next tuesday at 23,00 central european time after your champions league theatre and watch a match from a stadium which has real atmosphere.As for their little museum friend vist the museo de River the most beautifuil in the World.if you dont beleive or cant watch the SUPERCLASICO tuesday look at this

  • Comment number 88.

    River 11th vs Boca 13th... I guess pride is all they have to play for these days because their football seems to leave a lot to be desired.

    At least that gives other teams the chance to win the league. Imagine Real Madrid and Barcelona midtable after 13 games...or Man Utd and Chelsea, it would be unthinkable. European leagues are way too predictable, something that cannot be said of the South Americans.

  • Comment number 89.

    If River can't afford Bielsa, maybe they could try getting Diego Maradona as their new coach...we all know what a big River fan Maradona is ;)

  • Comment number 90.

    @88 "As for their little museum friend vist the museo de River the most beautifuil in the World"

    just don't expect to see too many international trophies 'cause for some reason, River haven't been too successful at international level. Only 2 Copa Libertadores wins for a club like River is a pretty poor return.

  • Comment number 91.

    What is the current situation with River and Boca ? Why are they doing so poorly of late ? Will this change any time soon ?

    Just looked at the relegation averages, and it looks as if River have a very real chance of playing in the relegation playoffs !
    Has this ever happened before to River or Boca ?

    I know that of the "big 5; Boca, River, Independiente, Racing and San Lorenzo", Racing have been relegated before, have any of the others ?

  • Comment number 92.

    91. Pekster San Lorenzo was relegated in 1981 and won the second division in 1982, so they only stayed down for one season. That was I think the last time when the Monumental was full and had something approaching warmth and atmosphere

  • Comment number 93.

    .... as San Lorenzo had no stadium of their own, they played in many other clubs' stadia, including River Plate's

  • Comment number 94.

    "Imagine Real Madrid and Barcelona midtable after 13 games...or Man Utd and Chelsea"

    The Real-Barcelona comparison is a good one, but Chelsea. Seriously do you know anything about pre-Premier League football? Manchester United and Liverpool are undoubtedly the giants of the English game 18 leagues each and 5-3 to Liverpool in continental championships. Chelsea have 4 leagues and 0 European Cups.

  • Comment number 95.

    EPL Standings after 13 games:
    1st Chelsea
    2nd Arsenal
    3rd Man Utd
    11th Liverpool

    Giants indeed!...
    pre-Premier League football???!!!... was that back when Liverpool last won a league title?, back in the 80s?

    You're right, I may not know or care much about the pre-EPL or even the EPL. I just know that Liverpool were a top team in Europe back in the 80s but it's been a while since Manchester Utd took that privilege from them, and as far as I understand, Chelsea are the only other team that can compete against them in the local league.

  • Comment number 96.

    sorry, in my previous posting, I should've mentioned the source of those EPL standings:

  • Comment number 97.

    From Wiki:
    "Premier League champions Season Winner
    1992–93 Manchester United
    1993–94 Manchester United
    1994–95 Blackburn Rovers
    1995–96 Manchester United
    1996–97 Manchester United
    1997–98 Arsenal
    1998–99 Manchester United
    1999–2000 Manchester United
    2000–01 Manchester United
    2001–02 Arsenal
    2002–03 Manchester United
    2003–04 Arsenal
    2004–05 Chelsea
    2005–06 Chelsea
    2006–07 Manchester United
    2007–08 Manchester United
    2008–09 Manchester United
    2009–10 Chelsea"

    One of your "giants" has been asleep for quite a while, throughout all the EPL history in fact ;)

    I guess it's like thinking Uruguay is a Football World Power because they won the World Cup back in 1930 and 1950. Good on them, but it's all ancient history.

    The difference with club football though is that you can improve a club by injecting more money into it (unless it's Man City) so there is hope for you.


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