3 reasons why everyone is falling in love with Chile

SB Nation's 2014 World Cup Bracket'

You've seen them battle their way to victory over Australia and knock cup-holders Spain out of the tournament while playing the sort of football normally reserved for a swarm of angry bees. You know you like Chile. But do you really know them?

Here are just a few of the reasons why the world's falling in love with La Roja.

1) The players

Jorge Valdivia: the Chipotle Chili

At 30 years old, Valdivia is one of the elder statesman of this Chile squad. He's also got one of the team's spicier reputations for everything from cheating on his wife to leading the others astray in the alcohol-laced Bautizazo affair. But the playmaker's hard-living may have caught up with him, or maybe it's just age that leaves him a bit slow. Either way, coach Jorge Sampaoli let him rest against Spain, perhaps fearing he couldn't keep up with the world champions. A little ridiculous in hindsight, of course. But let's hope we see Valdivia back (without sacrificing Charles Aránguiz) for the final game against the Netherlands. His goal against Australia, swerving and curling into the back of the net, was a thing of absolute beauty.

Alexis Sánchez: the Birds-Eye Chili

Don't mistake tininess for weakness. If you do, Sánchez will cut you open and leave you for dead. Well, your defense, anyway. Standing at just 5'7", the Barcelona forward is a master of slipping into space and has already made himself a standout in a tournament of superstars. Chile's first goal of the 2014 World Cup came from Alexis, and it almost feels like he's had a hand in all five (he hasn't; the third against Australia was a long range effort from Jean Beausejour, of all people). Sánchez's pace will see him popping up all over the pitch, and his talent with the ball at his feet means he can dribble around defenders or thread a ball through the narrowest of spaces. And if that's not enough, he has an absolutely deadly free-kick; his set piece against Spain was what allowed Aránguiz to knock in the second.

Arturo Vidal: the Habanero Chili

Sánchez might bring the style, but Vidal brings the swagger. Chile suffered a scare when Vidal had to undergo knee surgery in May, but his meniscus has held out thus far. It's a good thing, too, because part of the reason Chile can feel free to swarm the net is due to Vidal's ruthlessness in midfield. He's a true box-to-box midfielder able to get forward and threaten on goal, but it's his bite when defending that Chile might be most appreciative of. He's truly a complete midfielder, though -- perhaps the best in the world in that role -- and that's what makes him so dangerous. He's the habanero, the one to underestimate at your own risk. If you're left crying, you can't say you haven't been warned. You also can't say that he won't get in your face and laugh at you, crier.

2) The coach

Jorge Sampaoli: the Serrano Chili

Sampaoli is a self-proclaimed disciple of Marcelo Bielsa, who took Chile to the 2010 World Cup after a two-tournament absence. Bielsa was beloved by Chile's fans, bringing in young players and adopting a mindset that went well beyond "attacking" and into the dreamy realms of footballing madness.

If Bielsa was the jalapeño pepper -- a bit spicy, but easily accessible to the masses -- then Sampaoli is the serrano. Much resembling the jalapeño, the serrano is noticeably hotter, and when mature, can differ in color from red to orange to yellow.

Sampaoli turned up the heat by dialing it back. During qualifying, back before Sampaoli had taken over, Chile made headlines not due to their play, rather to their disciplinary issues. Then-manager Claudio Borghi banned Jean Beausejor, Carlos Carmona, Gonazalo Jara, Jorge Valdivia and Arturo Vidal for ten games after the players returned late and drunk prior to playing Uruguay. A few months later, Gary Medel and Eduardo Vargas found themselves dropped after cameras captured them partying until 4 a.m.

The arrival of Sampaoli permitted the return of the marginalized players, and the new coach set to work rebuilding a team, rather than a collection of players. He maintained the same style, however, building on Bielsa's methods to establish a Chilean footballing identity. The coherency shows on the field, where Chile might be playing in a style that looks incredibly chaotic, but at the same time, reveals that each player seems to know exactly where his teammate might be at any given time.

3) The style

Controlled chaos, or, the Chimayo Chili

The Chimayo is unique in that it's not mass produced, but rather a chili that people grow for pleasure in their own gardens. This means the Chimayo is much more unpredictable than other peppers, refusing to conform to a uniform standard.

And that's a pretty good metaphor for this team as a whole. They've been compared to Barcelona, perhaps due to their high pressing game that sees them swarm the opposition whenever possession is lost. They've also been compared to Bielsa's sides, but Sampaoli has taken his teacher's style and made it truly his own. How many other teams would dare to set foot on the world's biggest stage without any center backs against the tall, rugged Australians who were so keen to pump crosses into the box as their first opponents?

Chile enjoy the counter-attack. They favor offense over defense. They love a good high press. But what makes them stand out from other national teams is that they're almost always fun to watch. They push forward in a way that looks absolutely incoherent, until you realize each player knows exactly how to place a pass or time a run, enabling them to move at speed without losing possession.

They're not perfect. Most would argue that a team should make some sort of effort to defend, or at least pretend to. But, absent a few late-life growth spurts for Chile -- the shortest side at the tournament -- that's probably not going to happen. And in this World Cup, it may not be necessary.

Chile are like a plague of locusts. First glimpsed on the horizon, before you know it they're frantically hopping their way toward your field in a seething black cloud. You know when they arrive; they'll strip away every blade of grass and march on without a backward glance while you're left paralyzed and unable to stop the attack. All you can hope is that they manage to burn themselves out before arriving at your door.

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