Chile: Alexis Sánchez

Written by Michael Reintgen in 2013

Edited and updated by Justin Fu in 2015


Forward/Winger, #7, 24 Years Old




Alexis Alejandro Sánchez was born the 19th of December, 1988, in Tocopila, Chile. He first played organized football for the Cobreloa youth ranks in 2004, and was promoted to the first team in 2005 [1]. From Cobreloa, he secured a move to the Italian side Udinese in 2006, after which he was quickly loaned out so that he could gain more experience. On loan at the Chilean side Colo-Colo he won two titles, and then was loaned out to the legendary Argentinian side River Plate. Unfortunately, an early injury limited his contributions, but after recovering he helped take River Plate to the league title before returning to Udinese as a more experienced player in 2008.


He gained much attention at Udinese for his ability to skip past defenders at will, as well as racking up 21 goals in 95 appearances. In 2011, he had caught the eye of the Barcelona recruiting team, and was purchased for a €26 million fee, plus €11 million in bonuses. With this transfer, he became the first Chilean to ever play for the club. Despite suffering from several small injuries, Sanchez has elevated his game to the next level while at Barcelona. In just 63 appearances, the winger has racked up 27 goals, including a sublime chip to defeat Real Madrid in this seasons first El Classico [2].



Alexis Sanchez had a rough childhood. Very early on in his childhood, his father abandoned the family, leaving only his mother to provide for him and his siblings. Sanchez was so poor that he could not even afford a pair of soccer cleats for a U-14 tournament he was playing in, and was forced to borrow a pair from a teammate. After scoring 8 goals in a single match, he was given a pair to keep by the Mayor of Tocopila [3]. The necessity of having to work for everything has had a profound effect on Sanchez in his soccer career. In a recent article in which he declared that the England national team was too “soft” to ever win a World Cup, Sanchez cited his poverty in his youth as a vital reason for his current success.


I used to wash cars for such little money just so I had enough money to buy my football boots. When you are at academies like Manchester United and Arsenal, then everything is just given to you.” “My family was so poor that football for me was about survival. I told my mother from a young age, ‘Don’t worry, I will become a football player and get us out of this situation’. “If I had failed, I would be working 15-hour days on construction sites and still not be earning enough to live. Football saved me, and I don’t think any England players could say that. [4]


Sanchez backed up his words on the field when Chile played England in a friendly soon after this statement by scoring both of Chile’s goals in the 2-0 victory [2].



Previous involvement with National side


Sanchez made history as the youngest player to ever start for the Chilean national team when he made his debut in 2006, the same year he secured a transfer to Udinese. He also led the U20 national team to an unprecedented 3rd place finish in the U20 World Cup, and has been helping the senior side reach new heights ever since [3].


Sanchez bagged his first goal in a 2-1 loss against Switzerland in June 2007. After a lengthy 3-month injury layoff while playing at River Plate, he recovered to lead his team to World Cup 2010 qualification. In South Africa, the Chileans did well to get out of their group with victories against Switzerland and Honduras, and only lost 2-1 to Spain. In the first round of the knockout stage, Chile lost to Brazil 3-0 and thus were eliminated from the tournament. However, during this tournament they broke a world cup winless streak that extended back to 1962 when Chile hosted the tournament.


Alexis Sanchez and Chile did well in their qualification run up to the 2014 world cup, finishing in third place with a 9-1-6 record. Only Argentina and Columbia finished better.


Going into Brazil 2014


Alexis Sanchez carries the hopes and dreams of the Chilean people on his shoulders. A player of his quality and mental strength has never pulled on the Chilean national shirt before, and with such talent comes the need to deliver on the big stage. While Chile is far from a one-man team, it is clear that Sanchez is head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates. Chile will be looking to spearhead every attack with the Barcelona man, and will most likely count on him to put the final touch on the ball for a goal in addition to setting up his teammates.


No other player on Chile has the ability to blow past defenders in a one-on-one situation like Sanchez does, so when build-up play and possession is not working out the Chileans will most likely look to Sanchez to receive a quick outlet pass and counter with fury.


Sanchez also possesses great passing abilities, and can be expected to drop back into midfield if they are being overrun in this area. Not only possessing pace, Sanchez is also incredibly strong and can hold up play very well when receiving the ball in an advanced area. This allows his team to get forward into support as well as takes some pressure off the back line, providing defenders with vital time to catch their breath.


Weaknesses: Sanchez can sometimes feel he has to do too much, and can turn into a selfish player because he feels he is the only one who can make a difference.





The expectations on Sanchez will be for him to keep up his current form. If he can keep performing like he has so far at Barcelona and in World Cup qualification, he will certainly have a good World Cup. However, since he carries the hopes of the national team, if he fails to score goals and terrorize defenders he will undoubtedly feel the pressure from the Chilean fans.


The expectations on the Chilean national team as a whole are higher than ever. They have transformed into a very attack minded team, scoring 29 goals in total during qualification, a tally that was only bested by Argentina [5]. Also, during this round of qualification they also achieved their greatest string of results, gaining 5 victories and 1 draw in 6 games. Along with Sanchez, Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and the rest of the Chileans will be expected to do great things upon arriving in Brazil.


A success in Brazil could cement Chile as a force to be reckoned with in the footballing world. Their opponents already respectfully fear them, but a deep run into this World Cup would give them the confidence to take on anyone. With such young and promising talents like Sanchez and Vidal, an early success at this World Cup could give them momentum to do great things in future tournaments as well.


On the other hand, an early exit at the 2014 World Cup would spell disaster for a country looking to instill confidence in themselves as well as their fans. Chile has what it takes to make a good run into the knockout stages, but if the sum doesn’t add up to be greater than the parts then there is not much hope for a good finish. All in all, Chile will not realistically think they can take home the trophy in 2014, but a finish as a quarterfinalist or higher would be a major accomplishment for this blossoming side.


Why watch Alexis Sanchez?


Alexis Sanchez is the #1 player to watch for on Chile because he is by far the most exciting and lovable. He has overcome great obstacles to get from the poor rural neighborhoods of Chile to where he is today, a journey which has made him into a hard worker and determined winner. This man will leave you dumbstruck with the things he is able to do with the ball, and his time at Barcelona has only served to strengthen his overall ability. Sanchez will be the key man in the final third for Chile, creating opportunities for his teammates as long as he is slamming in goals himself. He possesses superb technical ability, which he will employ to help keep possession of the ball and tire out opponents. Above all else, Alexis Sanchez wants to win. He possesses a tireless engine that allows him to be devastatingly quick on the attack and still track back to support his team when they lose the ball. When Chile needs a goal, you better believe Sanchez will take it upon himself to deliver one no matter who is standing in his way.


Alexis Sanchez – Post-World Cup 2014

As a team, Chile performed well enough to advance from Group B which included Netherlands, Spain, and Australia. By defeating Australia, 3-1, and Spain, 2-0, they took the runner-up spot in their Group, only to fall to Brazil in the Round of 16 on penalty kicks. Sanchez scored the opening goal for his side in the 2014 World Cup against Australia, and his free kick against Spain led to teammate’s, Aranguiz’s, rebound goal, which sealed Spain’s fate for the 2014 World Cup [6]. Sanchez’s heroics would continue as he scored the equalizer against Brazil, forcing extra time and eventually penalty kicks. However, Sanchez was among three Chileans who missed from the spot, as Chile fell to Brazil 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout [7]. A video of Alexis Sanchez’s World Cup highlights can be seen below.

Following his impressive World Cup, signed with the English Premier League side, Arsenal, on July 10, 2014. Sanchez has excelled so far in the 2014-2015 campaign with the Gunners, scoring 12 goals and notching 7 assists in 23 games [1].


Click here to return to the Players to Watch home page.

Continue on to Group B – Netherlands: Arjen Robben

Group B – Australia: Tim Cahill

Group B – Spain: Sergio Busquets

Click here to return to the CONMEBOL page.

Learn about Chile’s National Anthem


How to cite this article: “Chile: Alexis Sánchez,” Written by Michael Reintgen (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).


Works Cited:

[1] “ESPN FC”, Player Profile: Alexis Sanchez. (Accessed on Nov. 18th 2013).

[2] “Soccerway” Summary: Alexis Sanchez (Accessed on Nov. 18th 2013)

[3] Ayush Srivastava. “Know Your Star: Ten Things You May Not Know About Alexis Sanchez” Written Jul. 11th, 2011. (Accessed on Nov. 18th 2013)

[4] “FoxSoccer”, “Sanchez: England are soft” Written Nov. 13th, 2013. (Accessed on Nov. 18th 2013) (

[5] “FIFA” Qualifiers: South America. (Accessed on Feb. 23th 2015)

[6] “The Guardian”, “pain crash out as irresistible chile prove too much of a handful.” Written Juun. 18, 2014. (Accessed on Feb. 26 2015)

[7] “FIFA” Matches: Brazil vs. Chile. (Accessed on Feb. 26 2015)

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