‘The stats show that you win more games when you play well, than when you play badly,’ he said after the 1-1 draw with Uruguay Friday. Chile coach Claudio Borghi has firmly set up his stall in this year’s Copa America. ‘I prefer to draw playing this way, than win playing badly.’
Borghi was the first Next Maradona. It was he who replaced Diego at Argentinos Juniors when Boca Juniors signed El Diez. And while the club’s ground may be named El Estadio Diego Maradona, it was Borghi who led the team to winning the 1985 Copa Libertadores, and only losing the Intercontinental Cup to a Juventus side featuring Platini and Laudrup on penalties. AC Milan signed him up, even though the move failed to work out as planned, losing his place to Ruud Gullit as the third foreigner in the side.
Article continues below ...
While Borghi is partial to a back three in defence, for which he was vilified by certain sectors of the Argentine press during his stint as Boca Juniors coach, it should surprise nobody that Borghi is building his Chile side around the figure of a classic number 10.
Yet going into the clash with Uruguay, Chile’s second match, Borghi was deprived of both of his preferred options for the role. First choice Mati Fernandez picked up an injury in the 2-1 win over Mexico. And The Magician, El Mago Jorge Valdivia, has been – as the phrase puts it – wrapped up in cotton wool while he returns from injury.
With no reference point in the middle, Chile struggled to impose themselves and the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Humberto Suazo, Jean Beausejour and Luis Jimenez failing to combine effectively and create clear-cut goal-scoring chances.
While both teams enjoyed a handful of half chances, and Luis Suarez blasted over the clearest chance in the first half, after the break the Liverpool striker’s dribble and pass found Alvaro Pereira unmarked in the area, and put Oscar Tabárez’ side ahead. Borghi had no option but to send substitute Valdivia on to try to turn the game around.
Valdivia, wearing the number 10, soon took control of the game. When offered him space, he selected his passes and dictated play. When the Uruguay defence pressured him, he would jink his way either out of danger, or force a rustic challenge and earn a dangerous freekick.
He is, as one Chilean journalist put it afterwards, totally loco. He has been banned by the Chilean federation for indiscipline while on national team duty, and featured in several sensationalist gossip stories. Some wonder just what would have been, had he not moved to Al-Ain in the UAE for the paycheck. Valdivia is the classic 10 with fabulous technique, creativity, vision and excellent distribution. A product of the Colo Colo youth system in Chile, his form with his with club in Brazil, Palmeiras, this season pushed Pelé into saying he’d love to see the player at Santos.
Having lacked clarity up front, Valdivia brought Chile back into the match. It was his exquisite pass for Jean Beausejour in behind the right back, who then in turn set up Alexis Sanchez for the equalizer.
‘He is unique,’ Borghi said of Valdivia afterwards. ‘He sees passes that nobody else does.’ Momentum continues to gather around Chile in this Copa America, and the players are starting to talk up their chances of challenging for the title. Borghi is clear over the strategy he expects from his team and uncompromising over his commitment to playing attacking football. He just needs his number 10 on the pitch.