Chile 2-2 Brazil – U20 friendly international – by Adam Brandon at the Estadio Santa Laura, Santiago, Chile.
Football fans in the cities of Rancagua and Santiago were treated to two very entertaining U20 clashes in the space of three days as Chile took on Brazil.
Chile will host the U20 South American Championships at the start of next year, so this was an ideal chance to see the hosts pit themselves against the favourites.
The matches also followed hot on the heels of an embarrassing 3-0 defeat for the senior side in Miami against Peru. With that in mind, the Chilean football public needed hope – and they got it.
On Saturday in Rancagua, Brazil took the lead in the second half through Rodrygo after a wonderful assist from Vinicius Junior around the hour mark.
Brazil had been quite wasteful in front of goal, with Chile and O’Higgins goalkeeper Luis Ureta in fine form playing on familiar ground and contributing to the opposition’s misfortune.
Just as it seemed like Brazil might take control, they were pegged back via a David Salazar header just minutes later and it finished 1-1.
Monday’s match saw the reverse. Chile took the lead, not once but twice, only to see their joy short-lived on both occasions. Striker Nicolas Guerra gave La Roja the lead with an excellent diving header before a thunderbolt from Gabriel Menino levelled the scores.
Chile went in front again in the second half, but Brazil responded immediately and both sides seemed content with the 2-2 scoreline at the full time whistle.
Here are four players that caught the eye across those two matches.
In the build-up to these friendlies, much of the talk focused on how Chile would cope with the attacking talents of this Brazil side.
The main answer would come in the shape of the Chile No. 6 – defensive midfielder Ignacio Saavedra.
Last month in a vital derby clash between league leaders Universidad Católica and Chile’s biggest club Colo-Colo, Saavedra announced himself by marking the experienced and talented playmaker Jorge Valdivia out of the contest.
Saavedra’s side won the game to remain top of the table.
On Saturday, and again on Monday, he was the best player in a red shirt against the Brazilians.
Comfortable in possession while directing play and his teammates, Saavedra was central to a lot of what Chile did well with the ball.
He even got a goal after his in-swinging cross evaded the flicked boot of Nicolas Guerra as well as the Brazilian goalkeeper to sneak in at the far post.
However, it’s the defensive attributes in his position which make him a real prospect.
He is always alert to danger, in these friendlies he regularly nipped the ball off a foot of a Brazilian at a vital moment and was often able to cover impressive ground to intercept Brazilian counter attacks.
Moreover, he was also fully committed in every duel. This was exemplified by him preparing to head the ball while sprawled on the ground. That’s something we saw Uruguay and Arsenal midfielder Lucas Torreira lauded for in the World Cup in Russia.
It’s early days, but Saavedra might just be the kind of young player Chile have been desperate to breakthrough for a while, with their golden generation fading.
Allende emerged after a string of impressive performances at the U17 World Cup in Chile in 2015 where he captained the side and was the focal point of nearly every attack.
He also captains this Chile U20 side and despite his small stature, Allende is adept at imposing himself on matches.
He debuted in the third tier of Chilean professional football in 2016 just before he turned seventeen and also had a couple of trials at Arsenal where he was well looked after by Alexis Sánchez and the club.
He joined Necaxa last year and the Mexican club immediately put him on a special training regime and diet. The plan seems to be working with Allende looking stronger by the game.
Over these two matches he showcased his dribbling ability on the ball and his wicked delivery on set pieces and crosses. It was his corner that allowed David Salazar to head home in the 1-1 draw on Saturday, while his cross set up the opening goal in the match on Monday.
An obvious choice, but hard to ignore.
A favourite of mine and this parish since his dazzling displays on Chilean soil during the U17 South American Championships in 2017, Vinicius has the world at his feet and a full debut for Real Madrid is surely not far away.
On Saturday in Rancagua he was, as expected, the standout player on the pitch.
His assist for the Brazil goal showcased his talent for all to see. Picking the ball up on halfway, he left the Chilean full back Tomas Alárcón for dead before playing a pass to set up the onrushing Rodrygo – pace, power, skill and decision making – Vinícius Júnior seems to have it all.
He was limited to just the last thirty minutes in Santiago on Monday, but almost had an instant impact.
Starting wide on the left around 40 yards from goal, he picked up a loose ball and sprinted into the box leaving a sea of red shirts in his wake, but unfortunately for the Real Madrid star his pass in the box was intercepted.
He had a couple more chances towards the end as the game became stretched and he perhaps could have done better. His development over the next year will be fascinating.
If he breaks into the Real Madrid XI and stars, then the senior set up can’t ignore him ahead of the Copa America on Brazilian soil next year.
If he doesn’t get regular club football this season then expect him to be the star man of the U20 South American Championships and possibly the U20 World Cup next year.
The majority of players on show had made their mark at U17 or U20 level for their national sides before, but Cunha would have been off the radar for many in his homeland until now.
The Brazilian number 11 was the brightest star on show in the canary yellow in the first half, taking his chance to announce himself to the South American public for the first time.
Cunha moved to Switzerland when he was just sixteen years old to sign for Sion after being spotted playing for a Coritiba youth side at the Dallas Cup in the USA in 2016.
An impressive debut season in the Swiss top flight was enough to earn himself a move to the Bundesliga and the opportunity to play for RB Leipzig.
Many in the crowd were disappointed that the Real Madrid duo of Rodrygo and Vinícius Júnior didn’t start, but they surely would have been entertained by the skill and athleticism of the RB Leipzig wide forward who has very promising future ahead of him.
His endeavour was eventually rewarded in the second half when he tapped home a Marquinhos Cipriano pull back following a mix up in the Chile defence to make it 2-2.