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FIFA Women's World Cup 2019: USA vs Chile - tactical analysis

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile

The second match in Group F of the FIFA Women’s World Cup sees the United States up against Chile. The match is of vital importance to both teams, as any result can begin to define the group’s positions and the chances of qualifying for the next round.

The United States, one of the strongest teams in this World Cup, won their first match 13-0 against a weak Thailand. Chile, for their part, lost 0-2 in their debut in the history of the World Cup to another very strong rival Sweden.

In this tactical preview, we will show how both teams had very different performances in their first match. In addition, we will analyze the characteristics of each of the teams and what will be the idea of both coaches.

The United States is the favourite team to win this game, but the Chilean team already overcame the nerves of the debut against Sweden and now must go out to win this game not to be eliminated. It will be an interesting match with similar offensive proposals.

Unite States’ 4-3-3 

The United States used a 4-3-3 formation in their first match against Thailand, but with different variants in defence and attack that we will analyze below. The team started from the base of a 4-3-3 scheme and from there, their formation varied depending on the context of the match. Also, logically from the attack and defence.

The first surprise of coach Jill Ellis was the inclusion of Julie Ertz as central defender instead of Becky Sauerbrunn. Julie Ertz usually plays as a defensive midfielder but in some friendlies prior to the World Cup, she played central defence, performing very well. The other central defender was Abby Dahlkemper, a regular starter. Kelley O’Hara and Crystal Dunn were the full-backs.

Samantha Mewis played as the only defensive midfielder, a position usually occupied by Ertz. Mewis was responsible for covering the interior midfielders, Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan. Lavelle and Horan were in charge of generating chances for the strikers.

Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, and Megan Rapione were the three players willing to attack. Heath and Rapione played as wingers and Morgan as the central striker. These three players were the usual stars in Ellis’ pre-World Cup friendlies.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile
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Chile’s 4-3-2-1

Chile played differently during the friendly matches leading up to the World Cup, but this time they changed. They usually played with a 4-3-3 formation as the base system, but against Sweden, one of the strongest teams, Chile chose to be more conservative.

Chile coach José Letelier chose a 4-3-2-1 formation for his first match against Sweden. The four-player backline consisted of right-back Helen Galaz, center-backs Carla Guerrero and Camila Sáez, and left-back Daniela Zamora.

Karen Araya was in charge of being the defensive midfielder, but with the help of Daniela Zamora and Rosario Balmaceda. Zamora and Balmaceda usually go on to play attack, but against Sweden, the task was based more on defending.

Letelier surprised by placing Francisca Lara, a midfielder with more defensive characteristics, next to Yanara Aedo and behind María Urrutia. Aedo played as an attacking midfielder, but Lara had a double task in attack and defence depending on possession of the ball. Urrutia was the only striker.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile
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United States’ initiative

The United States has a style of play based on possession of the ball, pressure, quick ball recoveries, proposing from the first minute and with many movements of their players. They look to score the first goal of the game to go ahead and play more calmly.

The 4-3-3 formation of the United States starts from the base of defensive midfielder Samantha Mewis. This is something that won’t change against Chile. The U.S. is going to come out and press from the start of the game and Mewis is going to be fundamental in that task.

Surely the U.S. backline will be closer and closer to the centre of the pitch. That’s where Mewis is going to be the link between the centre-backs and the midfielders (Lavelle and Horan). Mewis will have to watch out for pressure from Chile.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile
A line of four in the backline with the fullbacks close to the sideline. Mewis, Lavelle, and Horan form a triangle in the middle of the pitch.

Lavelle and Horan are sure to be between the lines of the Chilean team, as they usually are. The idea is to form a triangle that will give balance to the midfielders’ zone. The good use of time and space will be fundamental for Lavelle and Horan because Chile is a team that knows how to close well and will have one more line to occupy more spaces.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile
Mewis, in this case, defensive midfielder, acting as a link between the lines of the team. The importance of the good positioning of her teammates makes her have different options for passing.

Chile’s middle zone

The key to the match will be in the middle of the pitch and Chile knows that very well. If Chile wins most of the duels and recovers the most balls in that area they might have a chance. Chile are likely to play with their players very close to each other. The idea is to close with the lines together and cover the U.S. lanes.

Aside from Araya, who will be the defensive midfielder, Zamora and Balmaceda’s task will be fundamental. The three of them will have to be very supportive and make constant coverage to disconnect Mewis, Lavelle, and Horan. O’Hara and Dunn, two full-backs who are constantly attacking, must also be on the lookout.

Chile will most likely do the same 4-4-2 formation when they do not have possession of the ball. Francisca Lara will be in charge of going down to form the line of four midfielders. She won’t have any problems, because it’s a position that Lara knows well. She will be located between Zamora and Araya to close the U.S. lanes even further.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile
Chile making two lines of four players in defence and midfield. The idea against Sweden was for two lines to play together and compact. Closed defence.

The United States pressing Chile

One of the main characteristics of the United States is to pressure the opponent with several players when the ball is lost. The idea is to get the ball back as soon as possible so as not to let the opposing team arm themselves and settle on the pitch. Against Chile, this will not be any different.

The United States is going to press several players to the Chilean team to generate numerical superiority in all sectors of the pitch. Chile is a much stronger team than Thailand, which is why the United States is going to press with more reason and more intensity not to let the South American team play.

The pressure that the United States is going to exert on Chile will be in two ways. The first will be based on each Chilean player to force them to make a mistake in the delivery of the ball. The second one will be reducing the spaces to the Chilean players in order to reduce their field of action and thus force them to make another mistake.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile
USA’s first form of pressure: each player knows who to mark so as not to let rival players receive the ball.
The second form of pressure from the United States: generate numerical superiority in each sector of the pitch to force the opponent into a mistake.

Chile will attack the United States

Losing the first match against Sweden means that Chile has to face the match against the United States in a different way. Differently means, in other words, riskier. A defeat leaves them almost eliminated from the World Cup, so the strategy must change.

The Chilean fortress in the attack are the wings. Chile’s strongest point is the tandem generated by the full-backs with the midfielders on the right and left. By using a 4-3-2-1 formation the task of the full-backs and interior midfielders becomes fundamental. Against Sweden, the order was that Galaz and Zamora, the full-backs, did not attack. Similarly, Zamora and Balmaceda were more concerned to defend.

In addition, Balmaceda and Zamora will use the entire width of the pitch constantly to support the work of using the wings. The idea is to have numerical superiority in these sectors.

Against the United States, we will surely see very strong duels on the outer lanes of the pitch. On the right, we will see Galaz and Zamora on the Chilean side against Dunn and Rapinoe on the US side. On the left, we will see Zamora and Balmaceda on the Chilean side against O’Hara and Heath. The Americans are stronger at attacking, but they will also have the defensive task.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile
One of Chile’s variants will be to use the wings to attack. In this case, Balmaceda, who usually plays on the left, moves to the right. The midfielders will try to do the same against the United States to take advantage of the spaces left by the fullbacks.

United States’ shape 

A particularity of this U.S. team is the organization and order within the pitch. Generally when a team does not have the ball and must defend their scheme changes and their players are accommodated in another way. But not the United States, a team that always keeps their shape.

When the United States does not have possession of the ball they continue to use the same 4-3-3 scheme. Of course, the first to defend will be Heath, Morgan, and Rapione. But if Chile breaks that front line of pressure, they will have to face Lavelle, Mewis and Horan, three midfielders who are very committed to their task.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile
The United States uses a 4-3-3 formation during all phases of the match. In this case, the defensive form does not change and will not change against Chile.

Chile won’t let USA play cleanly

If the Chilean team dedicates themselves to defending only behind the line of the ball the match can be put uphill. Letelier knows that very well, and he knows the strengths of the U.S., a team that can be uncomfortable with pressure on their defensive line.

Chile will have to cut the clean exit from the United States and won’t let the back-line connect easily with midfielders, especially Mewis. If Chile presses and forces the United States to kick long balls, they may have a second chance in the game by winning rebounds. It will be a very frictional game with few spaces.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 Tactical Preview: USA vs Chile
Chile is going to put pressure on the United States as they did against Sweden. The idea will be not to let the ball pass cleanly between the backline and the midfielders. Forcing the United States to kick long balls will be the task.


This is a match that may well turn out to be even. The United States will look to qualify early for the Round of 16 and Chile will look to make it to the final group stage match alive. The U.S. has already faced the group’s weakest opponent, while Chile have so far played Sweden. Chile, for their part, will play Thailand after this match. Given the conditions and needs of both teams, this will be a very important match.

Despite all the ingredients that this match will bring us, there is one opponent that is much stronger than the other. This tactical analysis shows that it can be a close game, but the United States are still the clear favourites to win based on experience and history in the World Cups. It is one of the candidates to win the World Cup against a team that debuts in this competition.

The U.S. will go out and put high pressure on Chile, trying to have possession of the ball and not letting their rival play. Chile will have to change their tactics and risk a little more in search of a favourable result. Recovering the ball and making quick transitions from defence to attack can be the formula to surprise the United States. In fact, Chile might have a good chance to get a draw from this encounter.

If you are following the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 then you will find our FREE tactical preview magazine the perfect compliment to the tournament. You can download it HERE – each nation is previewed and we also profile their key player and young player to watch. Enjoy!