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Chile 1 Colombia 1 – Alexis Sánchez, James Rodríguez and five thoughts

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]outh American nations Chile and Colombia met in the latest round of World Cup qualifying yesterday, with the spoils shared in an entertaining 1-1 draw in Santiago.

The draw keeps both nations in the mix to ensure participation in Russia in 2018, while both teams had chances to claim all three points.

The hosts are clearly full of confidence after their Copa América heroics in the summer and probably should have scored a second goal in a period of dominance early in the second half to seal victory.

The visitors, to their credit, stuck to their task and have the individual talents to hurt any team on the break.

Here are five conclusions from the game.

Matías Fernández full of energy and dead-ball menace

The effervescent Charles Aránguiz is the main absentee from Chile’s successful Copa América campaign, with the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder rehabilitating from serious injury.

In his place, experienced head Matías Fernández slotted into the boiler room and was full of running and trickery on the ball that bamboozled the Colombian midfield.

An added threat the Fiorentina man offered was wicked delivery from set pieces, with the 68-cap veteran playing a sumptuous ball into the opposition’s penalty box for Arturo Vidal’s opening goal.

Muriel a constant threat on the break

Luis MurielColombia have no shortage of strikers to have made an impression in European club football recently, with one of the next generation the gifted Luis Muriel.

The 24-year-old has forged a venerable reputation for himself in Serie A, firstly with Udinese and now with Sampdoria, and was given a start ahead of Carlos Bacca here.

Muriel’s pace and ability to elude defenders was evident from the early moments of the game, with the sprightly forward Colombia’s most potent attacking weapon and playing a decisive role in his side’s equaliser.

A consistent place in José Pékerman’s team is next on the striker’s agenda, with Muriel clearly possessing all the attributes to be a star.

Valdívia looks dangerous but tails away in the second half

I have written about the supreme abilities of veteran Chilean playmaker Jorge Valdívia in the past, with the sublime attacking midfielder again standing out for Jorge Sampaoli’s men in this clash.

In the early exchanges, the former Palmeiras man was at the centre of all the hosts’ attacking malice and linked up well with Alexis Sánchez and the other Chile attackers.

Valdívia’s range of passing is exceptional, but it was the weight with which he played throughballs into his team-mates’ paths that really caught the eye.

The 32-year-old appeared to tire in the second half, but continues to be a prominent fixture for his national side.

James Rodríguez not fully fit but still contributes

James RodríguezColombia’s golden boy James Rodríguez has recently come back from injury and featured from the bench for club Real Madrid in the 3-2 defeat against Sevilla at the weekend, scoring a late consolation for the visitors.

The fact that he is not 100 per cent fit was evident here and the visionary playmaker was on the periphery of the action for considerable periods.

When given a chance to get on the ball in the final third, the former Monaco star made the wrong choice on a number of occasions and tried to do it all himself when a pass to others would have been a better option.

However, crucially the national captain was in the right place at the right time to take his goal well and salvage a point for his side.

Sánchez marshalled well by Santiago Arias

Alexis Sánchez is Chile’s most high-profile player and a world-class star capable of changing a game, but the Arsenal man was not heavily involved here.

The former Barcelona man was marshalled well by opposite number Santiago Arias and apart from a shot from the edge of the box early in the piece, was largely anonymous.

It is interesting to see that Chile’s attacking threat was not as potent as usual with Sánchez marked out of the game. As such, if Sampaoli’s side are to develop, a Plan B will be necessary going forward.

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