Manager Orlando Enrique Aravena Vergara, aged 46 by the time the qualification started, was into his third year as the Chilean national team boss. He had led them to a wonderful runners-up finish in the 1987 Copa América during his first year, but in the continental tournament which had just finished as the qualification was about to begin, they had failed to get beyond the group stage. That must surely have been a disappointment, though with Brazil being in their qualification group, and with only the winners going through, expectancy must have been kept at a moderate level. Read more…

World Cup appearances: 1930, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1974, 1982

Manager: Orlando Enrique Aravena Vergara


Qualifier 1
Estadio Brígido Iriarte (Caracas)

Fernández (66′)


Aravena (6′, 34′)
Zamorano (72′)

The Chileans did what was asked of them and returned from Caracas with both points. They were the better side in an eventful first half. Playmaker Aravena had struck twice, the latter a peach of a free-kick, though they came under pressure for the first half of the second period, and even saw the Venezuelans reduce the arrears. Substitute Zamorano impressed after replacing a poor Basay, and once he’d scored his team’s third, Chile were only prevented further goals by the hosts’ excellent goalkeeper.

Line-up (4-3-3): Rojas (c) – Hisis, Astengo, Gonzáles, Puebla – Ormeño, Aravena, Pizarro – Yáñez, Rubio, Basay (Zamorano 60).

Qualifier 2
Estadio Nacional, Santiago

Basay (83′)


Hugo Gonzáles (56′ o.g.)

Just the one change in Chile’s starting line-up since last weekend: Zamorano in for Basay, like during their last game. Early controversy sees Ormeño sent off after Romário had walked for the visitors. Chile display plenty of passion, but little goal threat. Aravena is unable to replicate last week’s amazing free-kick goal despite three attempts. Gonzáles unfortunate to be credited with own goal, Chile fortunate not to be 2-0 down as Bebeto’s good goal was called off, and late on substitute Basay rescues a point as Aravena quickly picks the ball out of Taffarel’s hands to assist with indirect free-kick from close range. 

Line-up (4-3-3): Rojas (c) – Hisis, Astengo, Gonzáles, Puebla – Ormeño, Aravena, Pizarro – Yáñez, Zamorano (Letelier 87), Rubio (Basay 59).

Qualifier 3
Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza, Argentina

Letelier (14′, 33′, 68′)
Yáñez (42′)
Vera (83′)



Playing across the border in Argentina due to a punishment imposed on them by FIFA after the Brazil game, the Chileans could not quite get the desired scoreline, although a win by five clear goals is not a poor achievement in any international. They scored three times through stand-in striker Letelier, and with midfielder Vera, who was making his first appearance of the qualification, in scintillating form, especially after the half-time break, they could’ve added to their tally even further. They will now need to win in Brazil if they are to progress through to the World Cup. 

Line-up (4-3-3): Rojas (c) – Hisis, Astengo (Contreras h-t), Gonzáles, Puebla – Pizarro, Aravena, Vera – Yáñez (Covarrubias 75), Letelier, Basay.

Qualifier 4
Estádio do Maracanã, Rio de Janeiro

Careca (50′)



* Later awarded by FIFA as a 2-0 win for the home side after the Chile team had walked off the pitch on 70 minutes

After failing to score a sufficient amount the previous week, Chile needed to win in the Maracanã to overtake Brazil in the final standings. Manager Aravena opted for different tactics this time around: a 4-4-2, with Hisis and Pizarro as holding midfielders. Reyes came in for his first appearance of the qualification at right-back, while Yáñez and Letelier were given the forward roles, attempting to seize the opportunity on the counter. Rojas made some fine first half stops, and then conceded early in the second half, before a five minute spell in which the visitors were on top. Then came the perverse moment of Rojas’ ‘injury’: A firecracker had been thrown on to the pitch, and he claimed to have been hit. His team mates carried him off and went into the dressing room with him, surely with the aim of forcing a replay, as the game was forfeited. 

Line-up (4-4-2): Rojas (c) – Reyes (Basay 63), Astengo, Gonzáles, Puebla – Hisis, Pizarro, Aravena, Vera – Yáñez, Letelier


Chile, despite the sad shenanigans towards the end of their final qualifier, should be respected for the way they acquitted themselves on the pitch. They certainly had some quality in their ranks, and after what must have been a somewhat disappointing Copa América tournament, they battled well, perhaps at times even in a very direct sense of the word, against the mighty Brazilians. 

Manager Orlando Aravena would have at his disposal for their first qualifier, the trip to Caracas to play group also-rans Venezuela, some of their Europe based players. The three forwards which started for the Chileans then, Patricio Yáñez, Hugo Rubio and Ivo Basay, had all flown across the Atlantic Ocean to play their part. They won less comprehensively than the Brazilians had done in the same stadium the week before, though that was pretty much down to Venezuela’s ‘keeper Baena, who had made several fine stops towards the latter stages. 

Ormeño, Aravena, Gonzáles (partly hidden)

The home clash with the Brazilians was almost war-like. The Colombian referee handed out a total of ten cards, of which two were red. While Brazil lost Romário as early as the second minute, Chile’s tenacious midfielder Raúl Ormeño followed suit before the quarter of an hour mark, after a horrific tackle against Branco. He was subsequently suspended for three matches, something which in practice turned out to mean that he never again would play a telling match for the national side. While Chile were fortunate to see a perfectly valid Brazil goal ruled out for 0-2, they got their late equalizer in debatable circumstances thanks to substitute Ivo Basay tucking away a close range indirect free-kick played quick into his path by Jorge Aravena. 

Due to both on and off the field trouble as far as that home fixture against the Brazilians went, Chile had to play their final home qualifier out of the country. They opted for Mendoza in Argentina, approximately a three hour drive from Santiago, and in a game where they’d needed to win by a margin of eight clear goals in order to overtake Brazil on goal differene at the top of the group standings, they could ‘only’ muster a 5-0 outcome. Experienced striker Juan Carlos Letelier and lively midfielder Jaime Vera had both been brought into the starting eleven for the first time in this qualification, and both responded well: Letelier with a hat-trick, and Vera with a ‘Man of the Match’ performance. 

Héctor Puebla, an important Chilean feature throughout the qualification

This meant there was still all to play for as Chile paid Brazil and the famous Maracanã a visit on the final day of qualification. Once again they needed to make do without their Swiss based forward pairing of Iván Zamorano and Hugo Rubio, who did not make it back to South America in time to take part, and a change in formation saw Orlando Aravena opt for a more cautious approach in order to try and frustrate the hosts for as long as possible. They’d been hoping that Patricio Yáñez’ pace up top could cause the home defence some trouble, though they rarely got out from their own half during a first half in which they were indebted to captain and ‘keeper Roberto Rojas for performing admirably. Then they went behind early in the second half, and though they were briefly on top in the wake of Careca’s goal, they could not quite put Brazil to the sword. Ultimately, they embarrassed themselves by attempting to rescue their qualification campaign by claiming that Rojas had been injured by a flare thrown from the stands. It had all been play-acting. FIFA awarded Brazil the win, and Chile were duly punished. It was a grim end to a disappointing year in the history of ‘la Roja’. 

Despite what had happened in Brazil, Chile had shown signs of being a talented side under Aravena’s tutelage. However, due to the ban which would soon be placed upon them by world football’s governing body FIFA, they would not get a chance to show this in the next World Cup qualification. Aravena resigned some ten days after the end of the qualification and before he had been handed his individual ban, and Rojas and libero Astengo would play no further part at international level following their respective bans. It sure was a sad end to what could otherwise have been regarded as a gallant attempt at reaching Italia ’90. 


Player Statistics

Number of players used: 17
Number of players including unused substitutes: 20
Ever-presents (339 minutes): 6
Leading goalscorer: Juan Carlos Letelier (3)
Yellow/red cards: 7/1

– overview

Note: Maximum amount of minutes was 339 due to the abandoned final game

– game by game

PlayerVen (a)Bra (h)Ven (h)Bra (a)AppsMins
Ormeño9014 (s.o.)2104
Contreras, LRR45R+145

– ratings

PosPlayerAverage ratingNumber of rated games
Explanation to table: A player needs to have been given a rating (min. 25 minutes of play during a game) for at least three out of four qualifiers in order to feature

Top three individual ratings:
1 Vera 8,5 vs Venezuela (h)
2 Letelier 8,1 vs Venezuela (h)
3 Aravena 7,7 vs Venezuela (a) and Venezuela (h), and Rojas vs Brazil (h)


There were to be no further internationals for the Chilean select until way past Italia ’90: Their next assignment was a 17 October 1990 fixture against Brazil (!) in Santiago. It was a double-header which had been arranged in the wake of the ‘Maracanazo’, the happening with goalkeeper Roberto Rojas in Rio de Janeiro in the return leg of the World Cup qualification. By then, manager Jorge Aravena had been replaced by Arturo Salah, who had most recently managed leading domestic club side Colo Colo from the country’s capital.