Chile coach Bielsa exposes Argentina weaknesses

October 16, 2008

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Chile's 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Argentina bore the indelible mark of coach Marcelo Bielsa and exposed the weaknesses of their neighbours.

Chile ran their opponents into the ground, just as Argentina used to during the six years in which Bielsa coached them.

The win took the Chileans level with Argentina on 16 points from 10 games in the South American group and kept them on course for a first World Cup appearance since 1998.

With midfielder Matias Fernandez in inspired form and Gary Medel tormenting Argentina down the right, Chile's performance was one of their best since Ivan Zamorano and Marcelo Salas spearheaded the attack a decade ago.

Obsessive and enigmatic, Bielsa initially found it tough to get the players to carry out what he describes as his vertical style of play.

But after a year of experimenting, and learning tough lessons along the way including 3-0 home defeats by Paraguay and Brazil, he appears to have found the right formula without high-profile players such as Italian-based Luis Jimenez and David Pizarro.

Bielsa's starting line-up on Wednesday had an average age of just over 24 and featured four home-based players, an usually high number for South American teams.

Rival coach Alfio Basile, though, appears to be struggling in his second stint with Argentina as he fails to make the most of the array of talent at his disposal.

"It's not difficult to imagine Bielsa planning the game against Argentina for months," said the influential daily Clarin.

"There's no sign the same thing happened in Ezeiza (Argentina's training camp)."

Having floundered through six successive draws, Argentina finally won last Saturday when they beat Uruguay 2-1 in Buenos Aires.

But with mercurial playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme suspended they lacked any sort of direction on Wednesday and depended almost exclusively on the individual talents of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero.

Messi produced Argentina's only real chance with a typical run through the Chile defence. Apart from that Basile's team were outwitted and outplayed.

"They were like a machine and pressed us in every part of the pitch and didn't let us settle," said the perplexed Basile.

"It seemed like there were 15 of them against 11 of us."

Basile's dilemma with Riquelme is that, when he plays, the team is built around him and the side toil if he fails to perform.

When he does not play the team has to be rebuilt.

"Without Riquelme we couldn't play the way we always do," added Basile.