Chile and Germany played out a 1-1 draw when they squared off in the group stage of the 2017 Confederations Cup and will now meet again in the final in Saint Petersburg (7pm Sunday, live on ITV).
Chile booked their place with a penalty shootout victory over Portugal following a 0-0 draw through normal and extra time. They showed more attacking intent throughout and were very unfortunate not to win out in extra time after twice hitting the woodwork and also seeing an Alexis Sanchez header drift inches wide of the far post.
Three saves from Claudio Bravo and accurate penalties from Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz and Sanchez righted that wrong and saw Chile’s golden generation make it through to the final of an international competition for the third consecutive summer. They will now hope to add the Confederations Cup to their consecutive Copa America triumphs.
Things haven’t always quite come together in attack for Chile in this tournament but they continue to operate as a team in the true sense of the word. The spine of the starting XI is in the midst of its third World Cup cycle and the on-pitch understanding and collective spirit of the group is clear for all to see. Everyone is comfortable with their place in the system.
It was, though, the midfield that really stood out in the semi-final against Portugal. Marcelo Diaz directed operations with precise and progressive passing from its base, while Aranguiz covered every blade of grass in a lung-busting performance in which he always seem to get himself into the right position on both sides of the ball. Vidal, too, was key.
Juan Antonio Pizzi has continued on the tactical path set by his predecessor Jorge Sampaoli, combining the intense high press and bold attacking play for which Chile originally became known with moments of controlled possession and an increasing ability to sit back and defend when necessary.
Chile have the oldest squad at the Confederations Cup and are taking part in their fourth successive summer of tournament football. A more mature, measured and adaptable approach therefore makes a great deal of sense.
Germany, in contrast, possess the tournament’s youngest squad, with an average age of just 24 years and four months – nearly five whole years younger than Chile’s average.
A number of experienced campaigners were left at home in order for Joachim Low to have extra time to work with some of the younger players who have been involved in the World Cup qualifying campaign and take a look at a few new faces hoping to impress and stake a claim for a place at next year’s World Cup. Germany have understandably been a bit disjointed at times but have still displayed enough quality to make the final.
Low’s side set up their second date with Chile in style with a 4-1 defeat of Mexico in the semi-final. Two goals inside the opening eight minutes from Leon Goretzka set them on their way and despite a spirited effort from Mexico in a match that saw plenty of chances at both ends, they never really looked likely to relinquish that lead. Second-half goals from Timo Werner and Amin Younes saw them secure a comfortable victory.
The World Cup holders continued in the 3-4-2-1 formation that they have utilised throughout the tournament and in which they are likely to continue for the final. The mechanisms of their attacking play look to be well in place, and it was their neat interchanges and planned movements that frequently opened up Mexico on Thursday.
Germany had a few problems playing out from the back in the face of Chile’s high press during the first half of the group-stage meeting between the teams. Chile seemed to focus their attention on Shkodran Mustafi and forced a number of turnovers, including the one that led to their early goal. But Germany looked dangerous whenever they broke past that initial pressure and had the opportunity to structure their attacks as desired.
It will therefore be interesting to see which of the two teams comes out on top on Sunday. Both have a similar idea as to how they want to play the game and the difference will be marked by which of them is able to execute their plan more effectively.
Chile are more experienced, have had more time together as a group and arguably have more players capable of turning the game by themselves. With that in mind, they should be considered marginal favourites to lift the 2017 Confederations Cup.