Chile Profile

Major Honours Copa America (2)
Year Founded 1895

The Chile men’s national football team, known affectionately as La Roja (The Red One), has enjoyed its most successful era in recent years, picking up the Copa America title in 2015 and again in 2016.

However, its long and interesting history predates the recent glory.

The Federacion de Futbol de Chile is the second-oldest federation in world football. It was one of the four founding members of CONMEBOL. Chile played in the inaugural South American Championship (later renamed the Copa America) in 1916 along with Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

From their first ever match against Argentina in 1910 to being ranked third in the world in 2016, Chile have woven themselves into the fabric of international football and are an important part of the game's history.

Early history

An early Chile national team

Chile's first ever international fixture took place on 27 May 1910, when they visited Argentina and lost 3-1 in Buenos Aires.

They participated in the inaugural South American Championship in 1916, but their early performances in the tournament were not particularly impressive. Chile did, however, finish third at the 1926 South American Championship on home soil.

Chile were also participants at the inaugural World Cup tournament in 1930, where they began the tournament well by beating Mexico and France, keeping clean sheets in both matches. However, a 3-1 defeat to Argentina ensured that Chile finished second in their group and crashed out of the tournament.

Chile finished third at the 1941 and 1945 Copa America tournaments, but generally speaking, they did not have much to shout about throughout the course of the 1930s and 1940s. They withdrew from the 1934 and 1938 World Cup tournaments, but were back in action at the 1950 tournament. Nevertheless, they were eliminated in the first round there despite a 5-2 victory over the United States.

Chile and the 1962 World Cup

Chile contest in the 1962 World Cup, which they hosted

In the 1950s, Chile began to enjoy a successful period. They were runners-up at the 1955 South American Championship on home soil, where they lost 1-0 to Argentina in the decisive match. Enrique Hormazabal was Chile's top scorer at that tournament with six goals.

In the 1956 tournament in Uruguay, Chile once again competed for the title. This time, Hormazabal was the tournament's top scorer with four goals. However, Uruguay narrowly beat them to the title.

However, the stage was beginning to be set for Chile's impressive run at the 1962 FIFA World Cup on home soil.

Chile began their tournament by beating Switzerland 3-1 courtesy of a brace from Leonel Sanchez and a goal from Jaime Ramirez.

Ramirez was on the scoresheet again, along with Jorge Luis Toro Sanchez, as Chile beat Italy 2-0 in a match which gained notoriety and was dubbed "The Battle of Santiago" due to being arguably one of the most hot-tempered matches of all-time.

The game was played against the backdrop of Italian journalists making remarks about Chile which the host nation's public had taken offence to.

After losing 2-0 to West Germany in their final Group 2 match, Chile finished second and advanced to the knockout rounds.

Goals from Sanchez and Eladio Rojas saw Chile past the Soviet Union in a 2-1 quarter-final triumph and they progressed to the semi-finals, where they were beaten 4-2 by Brazil. Goals from Toro and Sanchez were not enough to seal a home final for Chile, as Garrincha and Vava scored a brace apiece for the eventual champions.

Chile did, however, beat Yugoslavia 1-0 in the third-place play-off thanks to a late winner from Rojas.

There was not much success for Chile in the ensuing decades. They finished third at the 1967 South American Championship and then did not truly compete for another continental title until the 1979 Copa America. Furthermore, they did not make it past the group stage of another FIFA World Cup tournament until 1998.

The El Maracanazo scandal

Chile were beginning to emerge as a competitive force again in the late 1970s and the 1980s. They finished second at the 1979 Copa America tournament and then again at the 1987 edition.

In qualifying for the 1990 FIFA World Cup, they faced Brazil at the Maracana Stadium in 1989. Chile trailed 1-0 in a match which they needed to win when goalkeeper Roberto Rojas fell to the floor, seemingly with an injury to his forehead caused by a nearby firework thrown by a Brazilian fan.

Roberto Rojas, Chile, 1985

After Rojas was taken off the field, Chile's players and staff deemed the conditions unsafe to play in and the match was abandoned. After video footage showed that the firework had not actually hit Rojas, Chile were banned from 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifying and Rojas was banned for life, although he received amnesty in 2001.

Double Copa America triumph

Chile lift the Copa America trophy in 2015

Chile made the round of 16 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the 2014 tournament in Brazil, having previously done so in 1998 in France. This was a curtain-raiser to an era of unprecedented success for La Roja.

At the 2015 Copa America in Chile, the host nation began brightly by finishing top of Group A, having beaten Ecuador and Bolivia and drawn against Mexico.

Chile beat defending champions Uruguay 1-0 in the quarter-finals and Peru 2-1 in the semi-finals. This set up a final date with a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina.

After a 0-0 draw at the end of extra time, the final at the Estadio Nacional in Santiago went to penalties, where Gonzalo Higuain and Ever Banega failed to convert theirs and Chile were crowned Copa America champions. Eduardo Vargas finished the tournament as top scorer with five goals.

In 2016, Chile went to the Copa America Centenario tournament in the USA as defending champions. However, Jorge Sampaoli, who had led them to their 2015 triumph, had stepped down as head coach. The team was now presided over by Juan Antonio Pizzi.

Chile finished second in Group D after beating Panama and Bolivia, but losing 2-1 to Argentina. They then thrashed Mexico 7-0 in the quarter-finals and beat Colombia 2-0 in the semis to set up another final date with Argentina.

Once again, the match finished 0-0 and went to penalties. Messi and Lucas Biglia failed to convert for Argentina, which meant that Arturo Vidal was spared blushes for his miss and Chile were once again crowned champions. Vargas once again finished as the tournament's top scorer with six goals.

Chile lift the Copa America Centenario trophy in 2016

However, Chile failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and only managed a fourth-place finish at the 2019 Copa America tournament.

Chile's legends

Chile's all-time top goalscorer and appearance-maker is Alexis Sanchez, who previously played for Udinese, Barcelona, Arsenal and Manchester United and currently plays for Inter Milan.

His Inter team-mate, Arturo Vidal, previously of Juventus, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, has also been a consistent presence in the team through its glory years. Eduardo Vargas wrote his name in the history books by being the top goalscorer in both of Chile's Copa America triumphs.

Alexis Sanchez, Chile

Leonel Sanchez and Carlos Caszely are among the Chile greats from bygone eras. Both of them are among the highest goalscorers in La Roja's history.


Chile have a fierce rivalry with Peru, linked largely to the War of the Pacific. The fixture between the two is known as the Clasico del Pacífico.

The rivalry with Argentina is also deeply-rooted, with Argentina's triumphs over Chile in the early years of CONMEBOL and Chile's recent Copa America final wins over Argentina only adding fuel to the fire.


Between 2014 and 2016, Santiago suffered record-breaking pollution events, which were linked in part to barbeques when the Chile national team was playing - particularly when the following day was not a working day. A survey found that an estimated 29% of Santiago residents planned a barbeque ahead of the 2019 Copa America final.

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