Football - Soccer
Football is the most popular sport in Chile.
The first thing that got my attention having just arrived at the airport in Chile for the first time was when I was heading towards the center of the city on the airport bus. I saw dozens of football fields lined up one after an another along the side of the road on the way in. Many were dusty patches of dirt, the odd one had patches of grass here and there but the goalposts gave away the fact that football is a popular activity in Chile. This was back in '94 and now you won't see these due to the new expressway from the airport.
Top Teams in Chile
There are three main 'top' teams that have a deep rivalry against each other: Universidad Católica, Universidad de Chile and Colo Colo. The games between these teams are always considered high-risk and need a lot of police reinforcement. It has got to the point that the different fans have to enter the stadium through opposite ends to avoid conflict. It still happens though.
This rivalry can be a lot of fun with the jokes thrown at one another. Universidad Católica is famous for always coming second in the league while Universidad de Chile still doesn't have their own stadium.
Chilean First Division Teams
The teams that are currently in First Division (June 2015) are:
There are 18 teams in total in this top division. They are (in alphabetical order):
Audax Italiano, Cobresal, Colo Colo, Deportes Antofagasta, Deportes Iquique, Huachipato, O'Higgins, Palestino, San Luis, San Marcos de Arica, Santiago Wanderers, Union Española, Unión La Calera, Universidad Católica, Universidad de Chile, Universidad de Concepción. (Two more teams to be confirmed)
Chileans playing abroad
There have been a number of Chilean football players that have done well abroad both in Latin America and Europe. A couple of players that have done very well are Marcelo Salas (River Plate and Lazio), Ivan Zamorano (Real Madrid and Inter de Milan). Both players were key factors in Chile making it to the World Cup in France in 1998 and their subsequent qualification through to the second round where they were only beaten by Brazil.
Currently Alexis Sanchez is playing in Arsenal (England), Arturo Vidal en Juventus, Claudio Bravo in Barcelona and many more in other European teams.
Chile in the FIFA World Cup
For some reason, when Chile makes it to the second round of the competition, their opponent is usually Brazil.
In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Chile, under the guidance of DT Marcelo Bielsa, also did very well but again lost to Brazil in the second round. In the qualifying group they only lost 2-1 to Spain who would then go on to be the World Champions that year.
In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Chile also made it to the second round. In the first round Chile even beat the last Champion, Spain 2-0. Unfortunately, as per usual, Chile was against Brazil in the second round (to make things worse, Brazil was in the home country). The game went into extra time and there was the famous Palo de Pinilla (Player Pinilla almost scored from a distance thought the ball rebounded back into play after hitting the crossbar) in the last minutes of the game. Chile lost in the penalty shootout and you have never seen the Brazilian team celebrate a victory as much as they did that afternoon.
For the 2018 World Cup in Russia, since Blatter is no longer the President of FIFA, maybe now Chile won't cross paths with Brazil in the second stage. :D
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