Last night Texas Soccer Journal attended the Chile-Paraguay FIFA CONMEBOL 2018 World Cup Qualifier at Estadio Monumental in Santiago, Chile.
This was round 15 of a long and extremely challenging qualification process involving 18 home and away matches for all 9 South American countries (at least those that are not part of CONCACAF). Paraguay shocked Chile 3-0 here last night to help tighten up the race for the final 3.5 SA World Cup slots available, since Brazil has run away from the pack and already qualified.
Stadium and match atmosphere observations:
- Estadio Monumental is also the home stadium of storied Chilean Primera Division club, Colo Colo. There are display cases with club memorabilia inside the stadium and an onsite museum (which isn’t open on match days).
- We stopped and walked around the National stadium on the way to Monumental. This stadium, which hosted the 1962 World Cup and 2015 Copa America finals, was empty and seemingly available. Nobody I asked could explain why last night’s match was not played there, especially since more tickets could have been sold.
- The process to buy tickets was different from what we are used to in the States. Not surprisingly, the website was in Spanish and we needed to provide Passport numbers to buy the tickets. When we arrived at the stadium we had to show a copy of our Passports to enter. At the gate our information was entered into a computer, which is connected (I believe) to an international database of bad actors that aren’t allowed into soccer stadiums worldwide. Since my hooligan days (haha) are long in the past, the process to enter was smoother than I imagined it would be.
- The stadium is divided into two basic sections-Platea and Popular. All tickets are expensive, but the Platea much more so. There is a very different (and calmer) crowd at National team games than club matches in Chile. The vibe where we were sitting was more relaxed than we would see at a USMNT game, in an equivalent seating section. We expected to stand the entire match and that didn’t happen. From this picture it is clear, however, that the Popular and Platea sections are not meant to mix.The match result was quite surprising. Maybe it was a hangover from the tough Confederations Cup final lost to Germany in June. Chile was off from the first errant pass and defensively disorganized all night. A 24th minute own goal from star Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal had them playing from behind the remainder of the match. After that goal, Paraguay was incredibly organized and Chile had very few good chances. Paraguay then put the game away with a third goal in extra-time. Though the fans in the stadium seemed to take the loss stoically, Vidal got into it with fans on Twitter after the match. The Paraguay fans were separated into their own Popular section and asked to delay their exit from the stadium after the game ended. To further avoid inflaming the crowd, no alcohol was sold and no replays of any kind were shown on the video board. More pictures follow below. TSJ has 4 more live matches planned on this trip, including Argentina-Venezuela next Tuesday in Buenos Aires. Note the beautiful backdrop of the Andes mountain range in the next 2 pictures, Atlanta United’s Miguel Almiron being substituted late (5th picture) and the delirious Paraguay bench after the 3rd goal (7th picture).