Chile will play alongside Spain, The Netherlands and Australia in Pool B in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and manager Jorge Sampaoli does not believe his side is in a position to challenge for the overall crown.
Chile struggled at the start of their qualification campaign and looked as though they would miss out on qualifying for the World Cup, after recording three straight losses, but bounced back following the hiring of Sampaoli at the end of last year to finish in third position behind Argentina and Colombia.
Sampaoli has made greats strides with the national team since taking over as manager of La Roja but does not believe that his side deserves to be considered one of the leading contenders for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
“I think that given the teams we’ll be up against, it’s not logical to start thinking that we’re among the candidates to win the World Cup,” Sampaoli said.
“Later on a lot of situations might come about that give you the opportunity to challenge and overcome situations that right now you don’t think you could, but history tells us that things always tend to fall into place, and the logical candidates are the usual suspects.
“Surprise results could possibly give Chile the chance to get in the mix, but when you look at what’s gone on at previous World Cups, very little seems to change.”
Sampaoli’s attacking philosophy has made him popular with Chilean fans and players alike; with his attractive style of football leading to comparisons with Marcelo Bielsa who led Chile to the round of 16 in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where they lost to Brazil.
Hopes are high that Sampaoli can potentially lead Chile to their best ever World Cup result since they finished third in 1962 but the Argentinean admits that the optimism of Chilean fans makes him feel uncomfortable.
“It makes me uncomfortable that they’re hoping I’m capable of making Chile win a World Cup, particularly when I think about how difficult that is and the difference between us and other national teams that are genuinely a cut above us,” Sampaoli said.
“It’s like when someone wants something that, as it’s part of the competition, they feel they need, but which is sometimes unachievable.
“We need to be aware that difference exists and that it’s real but that we’re going to try, through hard work, to be a well-functioning team that’s ready to compete with anyone.”
Chile will begin their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign against Australia in Cuiaba on July 13 before playing Spain in Rio De Janiero on July 18 and facing Netherlands in Sao Paulo on July 23.