by Carlos D. Mojica () | Photo by Jorge O. Martínez
“Messi missed.” Despite the tragic connotation it carries, there’s a certain beauty in the alliteration of what has undoubtedly been the most uttered phrase over the last week. Though understandable – after all this is a Messi-led Argentina that failed to win its third final in three years – to focus solely on the failure of Argentina is to do a disservice to the achievements of a Chilean team that is beginning to etch itself into the collective memory of soccer fans.
Make no mistake about it: this is the greatest Chilean team of all time, featuring a golden generation of players the likes of which may not be seen again. While Argentina boasts the likes of Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, and Javier Mascherano, Chile has players of similar caliber who not only play like a cohesive unit, but lack the type of egos that have been the downfall of so many other talented sides.
Messi’s decision to retire hijacked all of the sports headlines, ignoring another Argentine who – though absent from the stadium – had arguably greater influence in the match than any player on either squad. That Argentine is Marcelo “El Loco” Bielsa. Bielsa, whose famed antics have gotten attention as much for their eccentricity as for their effectiveness, is the architect behind La Roja’s high-energy style, a style that continues to be used today, five years after his departure.
It was Bielsa’s ideology that shaped the players of Chile’s golden generation and created a style that has become so associated with the team that it seems absurd to imagine any other national side using it to the same effect. The current Chilean squad is the epitome of Bielsismo, an ideology that promotes playing soccer that is fast, energetic, vertical, and attractive. In other words, this team and its approach to the game are Marcelo Bielsa’s greatest contribution to soccer.