Forget Arsenal’s Alexis or Juventus’ Vidal: Chile’s two unsung midfield stars

Copa America hosts Chile secured their place in the competition final last night with a 2-1 semi-finals win over Peru.

The home side have never won the South American trophy, with victory in the Clásico del Pacífico meaning the nation’s golden generation are potentially 90 minutes away from going down in history.

Looking at Jorge Sampaoli’s outfit, there is no shortage of stars.

Arsenal flyer Alexis Sánchez and Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal are world-class performers, while Claudio Bravo was a major part of the Barcelona side that recently claimed a momentous treble.

Looking throughout the rest of the starting XI that faced Peru, players such as Gary Medel, Mauricio Isla and two-goal hero Eduardo Vargas have all plied their trade in European football.

However arguably two of La Roja’s unsung heroes have not made the move to Europe and instead have opted to play their club football in Brazil.

Despite the presence of talisman Vidal, midfielders Charles Aránguiz and Jorge Valdivia have been the beating heart of Chile’s side throughout this Copa America and deserve praise for their control over proceedings against Peru.

Aránguiz’s energy, work-rate and precise passing was a key element of Sampaoli’s side in last year’s World Cup, with the Internacional star continuing this fine form for his country this summer.

For an outsider looking in, it would be easy to select Valdivia as the world-class attacking midfielder, not Sánchez, with the Palmeiras playmaker’s range of passing and vision a joy to behold.

Charles AránguizChile’s fluid style of attacking play under Sampaoli has seen rumblings in the South American press that the Argentine could well be next in line to coach his native Albiceleste once the position becomes available again.

Aránguiz and Valdivia are at the heart of this scintillating, possession-based style, with their running off the ball and clever interchanges delighting the Estadio Nacional supporters against Peru.

Veteran Valdivia clearly has the technical abilities to have moved to Europe, but spent only brief spells on loan with Rayo Vallecano and modest Swiss outfit Servette in his younger days.

The majority of his club football has been spent in Brazil with Palmeiras, with a two-year interlude in the Middle East with Al-Ain.

The 31-year-old is being linked with another return to the Arabian Gulf, with a switch to Al Wadah potentially a lucrative summer swansong for this gifted attacking midfielder.

Aránguiz meanwhile is seemingly in his prime and seems destined for a switch to Europe after his continued stellar showings for his country.

Having tried his hand briefly in Argentina with Quilmes, the 26-year-old box-to-box man became a stalwart of an impressive Universidad de Chile outfit before moving to Brazil’s Internacional in 2014.

One of my enduring memories of Aránguiz from last year’s World Cup was his penalty in the shootout against Brazil in the second round.

Ignoring the pressure on him and the screams of the partisan Brazilian crowd, the midfielder hit a spot kick that could not really be improved on; striking the ball through the laces it flew into the top left-hand corner of Júlio César’s goal, leaving the stopper in mild shock.

It is clear that Aránguiz is a composed and intelligent footballer whose influence is potentially overlooked by some due to other star names in the Chile ranks.

Should Sampaoli’s men triumph this Saturday in the competition final, this group of players will go down in history as one of the best in the nation’s history.

However, despite the glamour and quality of Alexis, Vidal and others, Brazil-based duo Valdivia and Aránguiz have proven themselves as essential members of this La Roja squad.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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