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Deja vu for Chile as Brazil send them home

Despite their disappointment, the Chileans will take some comfort from their showing in South Africa. For a start, they won a match -- something they had failed to do in their previous four World Cup appearances.

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The last time Chile went to a World Cup, in 1998, they made it through the first round only to be hammered by Brazil in the second. Twelve years on, history has repeated itself.

Their 3-0 defeat by the Brazilians at Ellis Park yesterday brought their World Cup to an abrupt end and highlighted the gulf in quality between the best and the rest in world soccer.

"It's only fair that we reached this stage of the competition, but it's also fair that we were knocked out," coach Marcelo Bielsa said in a frank assessment of his team's performance.

"Maybe the result could have been closer but we couldn't bridge the superiority gap with Brazil. There is still a gap between the big teams and us."

Despite their disappointment, the Chileans will take some comfort from their showing in South Africa. For a start, they won a match -- something they had conspicuously failed to do in their previous four World Cup appearances.

Their 1-0 victory over Honduras in their opening game came on the 48th anniversary of their last World Cup win, and finally banished the ghost of that long, unwanted record.

Bielsa can be proud of some of his lesser-known players, like midfielders Carlos Carmona and Rodrigo Millar and rightback Mauricio Isla, all of whom had respectable World Cups.

But his big name players were disappointing. Striker Humberto Suazo never looked match fit after struggling to shake off first a shoulder and then a hamstring injury, and Chile's "boy wonder" Alexis Sanchez -- hailed in some circles as the Cristiano Ronaldo of Latin America -- did little of note.

The Chileans were niggly too. They committed more fouls than any team in the competition in the first round and picked up 13 yellow cards and a red in their four matches. For a team that came to the competition with a reputation for exciting, attacking football, that was a surprise.

Their poor finishing was also unexpected, particularly in their opening two matches against Honduras and Switzerland, when they had 40 shots on goal but scored only twice. If Suazo had been fit, that might have been different, but the Chileans should not use that as an excuse.

On the plus side, the Chileans will be happy to have created so many goal-scoring opportunities in the first place, and they also know the have a young squad. If they can make it through the qualifiers for Brazil 2014 they should have a decent side.

"We're one of the youngest sides at this World Cup and that should be borne in mind," said forward Mark Gonzalez. "We've got a lot of quite inexperienced players and maybe that's where some of our mistakes came from."

Whether Chile reach the next World Cup will depend partly on whether Bielsa stays on as coach.

"He's turned normal players into World Cup players and we really appreciate that," winger Jean Beausejour said. "I hope he can carry on, so that we can keep growing under his guidance."

At his post-match news conference on Monday, Bielsa was asked three times whether he would stay on, but he declined to comment.

Harold Mayne-Nicholls, head of the Chilean football association, is keen for the Argentine to stay, as are most Chileans, who idolise Bielsa.

"Marcelo has done what we asked of him and done it quickly," Mayne-Nicholls said after yesterday’s match. "He's brought a lot of discipline to the players, put a lot of rigour in to his work and been very humble in everything he does."

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