The Chilean national football team has had reasonable success at all major internation football tournaments. Controlled by the Federacion de Futbol de Chile, the team has appeared in 7 World Cup tournaments in all and has also hosted the tournament in 1962. A popular nickname of the team ‘La Roja’ has been associated with it since the early half of the 1980s.
Chile is one of the founding member nations of CONMEBOL, with the other three founder nations being Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. This South American championship was later renamed to Copa America and is one of the most popular tournaments in South America. The Federacion de Futbol de Chile is itself nearly 114 years old.
The Chilean team’s football history goes back in other arenas as well, including the inaugural 1930 World Cup, of which Chile formed a part along with 12 other teams. They started the tournament well, beating France and Mexico, but lost out to Argentina, and thus a spot in the second round of the tournament. They did not fare any better in the 1950 World Cup, being eliminated in the first round itself, despite a spectacular 5-2 win against USA.
Chile appeared for the 1962 World Cup right after the Great Chilean Earthquake, which took place in 1960, and had the highest recorded magnitude on the Richter scale in world history, of 9.5. But this did not prevent Chile from hosting the World Cup tournament and they went on to win their first match against Switzerland. But the most memorable match was the Battle of Santiago, when Chile played against Italy, which they won 2-0. It is noted for the high level of intentional violence by team members against the opposing team, so much so that police protection was required to allow the teams to leave the field safely.
Chile bagged a third place finish in the 1962 FIFA World Cup, their best position in the tournament so far. Apart from this, Chile has also been the team to make a lot of historical first’s in the tournament, including the first player to miss a penalty kick in the World Cup, Guillermo Subiabre, in a match in 1930 and the first player to be sent off with a red card, in a 1974 match against West Germany.
Chile’s qualification for the 1974 FIFA World Cup was controversial, as USSR refused to play the second leg of the tournament in Estadio Nacional, in Santiago, as it had been previously used as a concentration camp by Pinochet, the military dictator. After FIFA refused to comply with the demands of USSR, Chile scored against an unguarded USSR and went on to qualify for the tournament. The were eventually eliminated after a draw with Australia.
But the biggest scandal for Chile came in September, 1989, when during the 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifying macth at Maracana, against Brazil, Chilean goalkeeper, Roberto Rojas fell down, apparently injured by a firecracker thrown from the stands. The Chileans refused to continue play, claiming that the pitch was unsafe. But after FIFA inspected the video footage of the incident it was found that the firecracker had not even come close to Rojas, who had clearly feigned the injury. This resulted in FIFA forfeiting the game to Brazil, and Chile was banned from the qualifier matches for the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Rojas was banned from the tournament for life, and only received amnesty in 2001.
Chile qualified for the 2010 World Cup, and went on to beat Honduras and Switzerland. Despite losing to Spain, Chile qualified for the Round of 16, where they met Brazil. Brazil beat Chile by 3 goals to nil, sealing their world cup campaign shut.
Meanwhile, in the Olympic football tournament, Chile has had to contend with a Bronze medal win at the 2000 Sydney Olympics Games, as its best performance to date. Bronze Medals were also won by the Chilean Under-17 team, in the U-17 World Cup, as well as the Under-20 World Cup held in Japan and Canada respectively.
Some notable Chilean players in the country’s football history include Guillermo Subiabre, George Robledo, Marcelo Salas, Sergio Livingstone, Leonel Sanchez, Carlos Caszley and Enrique Hormazabal, amongst many others.