Success largely made in Argentina

Chilean players celebrating after winning the Copa America.
Chilean players celebrating after winning the Copa America.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SANTIAGO • It took an Argentinian, Jorge Sampaoli, to plot Chile's triumph in the Copa America final against his own country.

Chile's coach stayed true to his live-wire reputation, jumping up and down on the touchline urging stars Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal to attack so they could win their first South American football championship.

"We had to play a great game against one of the world's best teams for the quality of players. We should have won in 90 minutes, but ended up getting justice in a shootout," Sampaoli, who made his name mainly as a coach of teams in Peru and Ecuador, said after Saturday's 4-1 penalty shoot-out victory in Santiago.

Since taking over, the 55-year-old has transformed Chile's national side into true global competitors. As well as Saturday's South American title, Chile also reached the last 16 at last year's World Cup and were unlucky not to go further.

But when he arrived in December 2012, Chile had lost three World Cup qualifiers in a row and despite the presence of stars such as Sanchez, seemed like a disorganised rabble.

"From the first game, Chile were playing to win the Copa America," Sampaoli said, adding that Chile are capable of even better. "People are now starting to dream. We have done something great today and qualifying for the 2018 World Cup will be Chile's next target."

Sampaoli has an all-Argentinian staff helping him with the Chilean players. But despite reports indicating that he would like to take over his own country's team, he insists he will stay with Chile at least for the 2018 World Cup in Russia - as long as they qualify.

"My duty is linked to the fate of this country and these players," he said before the final. "I don't have Chilean nationality, but I am excited by the chance to make Chile champions." AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2015, with the headline 'Success largely made in Argentina'. Print Edition | Subscribe