In 1962, Chile became the third South American country to host a World Cup, largely in thanks to Carlos Dittborn who sadly died a month before the tournament began.
Their status as host nation could have been taken away from them following a huge earthquake in Valdivia in 1960, but Dittborn fought hard to keep the World Cup in Chile and much to the country’s credit they delivered the World Cup on time.
Fortunately, 1962 also coincided with Chile having one of their best ever sides, featuring talented attackers such as Jorge Toro and Leonel Sanchez, both of whom would go on to become trailblazers for Chilean players wanting to succeed in Italy.
Chile toured Europe in 1960 to get some game time against European opposition. The tour went badly, though.
Defeats to France, Switzerland, Republic of Ireland left them with a lot of work to do over the following two years.
Their form did improve in the year leading up to the big event however, and they recorded an impressive 5-1 win over Hungary in Santiago.
Chile started the World Cup with an impressive 3–1 win over Switzerland, and knew a victory against the Italians would seal their passage into the quarter finals.
In their opening game of this World Cup, Italy battled to a 0-0 draw against West Germany which meant they needed at least a point against the home nation.
The highlights of the match were famously introduced in the UK with these immortal words by David Coleman:
“Good evening. The game you are about to see is the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.”
Tensions between the two had escalated in the lead up to the game after two Italian journalists poured scorn on the Chilean capital.
They reported a dump of a city that was full of crime, misery, and prostitution, with an uneducated, drunk and malnourished population. The Italian journalists soon fled the country and an Argentinian was beaten up in a case of mistaken identity (Argentine Spanish sounds similar in tone to Italian).
Before the match, the Italians sensed they were in for a tirade of abuse from the locals, and tried to calm tensions by offering flowers to the Chilean women in the crowd.
This offer was rejected with the flowers being returned in direction of the Italians with verbal abuse. Fruit and coins added in for good measure.
The game got underway and, predictably, it didn’t take long for things to escalate and for the first player to be ejected from the field.
In the eighth minute English referee Ken Aston sent Giorgio Ferrini from the field of play (with help from the police) and the Italians were down to ten.
Numerous incidents followed. In the 40th minute Leonel Sanchez, son of a professional boxer, was incredibly lucky to stay on the pitch after flooring Mario David with a superb left hook of which his father would have been proud.
David got retribution moments later by launching himself with a flying kick on the head of Sanchez. This resulted in Italy being reduced to nine men. It also meant the police entered the play for the third time and it wasn’t even half-time.
The Chileans were giving special attention to the Italian players who were born in Argentina.
Chilean defender Carlos Contreras heckled Italian forward Humberto Maschio with the line: “You got it wrong old man, Argentina are playing in Rancagua.” Maschio had played 12 times for Argentina before switching to play for the European nation.
Chile, with a two man advantage, eventually wore down the Italians and led through Jaime Ramirez’s header in the 73rd minute, before Jorge Toro finally finished them off with this fine strike…
What Happened Next?
More fighting broke out towards the end, and the referee appeared to blow up early because of it. In the days that followed the world’s press disapproved of the antics that they had witnessed on that cold day in the Chilean capital.
On the field, Chile went on to beat the Soviet Union in Arica by two goals to one in the quarter finals. It remains their only win in the knockout stages of the World Cup (not including their 3rd place play-off win a few days later).
They lost to Brazil in the semi-finals in a thrilling encounter in Santiago. The host nation put up a decent fight but Pele and Garrincha were simply too good as Brazil ran out 4-2 winners.
The referee from the Battle of Santiago, Ken Aston, came up with the idea of using red and yellow cards whilst sitting in traffic lights after seeing another violent encounter four years later between England and Argentina.
And in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico the yellow and red card system was seen for the first time worldwide.
Toro went onto play in Italy for four different clubs including Sampdoria. Leonel Sanchez and Mario David became team mates and eventually friends whilst playing together for Milan.
THAT David Coleman Intro…