Andrew Davidson unveils a rising star from each Brazil 2014 squad that is set to grace our TV screens in June – number one is Eduardo Vargas of Chile.
AGE: 24 POSITION: Forward
CAPS: 27 GOALS: 11
CLUB: Valencia (on loan from Napoli (Spain/Italy)
A right-sided forward who is comfortable through the middle and on the right wing, Eduardo Vargas is a supremely talented player, who has perhaps lived in the shadow of Alexis Sanchez for Chile of late. The World Cup may just be the stage on which the world finally gets a good look at the young man from Santiago.
Vargas first burst on to the Chilean scene with Cobreloa as a wily 16 year old. His speed and trickery were noticed early on and in 2010 he was snatched up by Universidad de Chile for $700,000. He soon added strength to his growing list of attributes and his consistent performances drew praise from all quarters.
The player has proven he is adept with the ball at his feet, and is never afraid to receive the ball with his back to goal and try to turn the defender at his heels. When deployed on the wing he is always willing to take on his man, and his mixture of slick tricks and solid upper-body strength have seen him blitz by many a defender.
It is his movement which really impresses, however. Dropping in to the hole to collect the ball, spraying passes out wide, and finding dangerous positions in and around the penalty area are big parts of his game.
In 2011, just a year after joining the famous club, Vargas led the scoring in the Copa Sudamericana with 11 goals – an all-time record – and scored twice in the final to give La U their first ever international title. His performances in the competition led to him being nominated for South American Footballer of the Year, and he finished 2nd only behind Neymar. He was voted Chilean Footballer of the Year just a month later.
That same month saw interest from several European clubs, with Inter Milan rumoured to be keeping tabs on the future star. Eventually it was Napoli who met the clubs asking price – paying £11.5 million to bring Vargas to the San Paolo in Naples.
Despite scoring a hat-trick in his first Europa League game (the first Chilean to do so in a UEFA competition), Vargas found it hard to break into a richly talented Napoli side, and returned to South America in a loan move to Brazilian outfit Gremio. He appeared 22 times in the Brasileiro, scoring 7 times.
In January this year, Vargas joined La Liga side Valencia and made his debut in a famous 3-2 win at the Nou Camp against Barcelona. He scored a fine goal against Real Betis in the league and looks every bit the technical, hard-working type of player you would expect to find in the Valencia attack.
Having made such an impression for various clubs since making his senior debut, Vargas inevitably has drawn plenty of attention from the national team coaches.
He made his first mark for his country at the 2009 Toulon Tournament in France, scoring the important equaliser and a penalty in the resulting shoot-out against the Netherlands in the semi-final. Chile went on to win the prestigious competition, and Vargas was named the best winger in the tournament, scoring 3 goals in total.
Another 3 goals from 5 caps at under-20 level led to Vargas being fast-tracked to the senior ranks. Since breaking through into the talented Chile team he has not looked back, amassing an impressive number of caps and scoring some vital goals, against big sides.
Vargas’ first international goal came to put his country 2-0 up against world champions Spain in a friendly in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the Spanish side came back and won 2-3, but the youngster was not perturbed. He notched his first competitive goal in the next game, a 4-2 victory over Peru in World Cup qualifying.
A goal against Uruguay in a 2-0 win followed, then a terrific effort in a 2-2 against Brazil, during a friendly in Belo Horizonte. Three more followed in vital qualifiers as he really found his stride at this level, before he capped off an incredible 2013 with a double against Spain in yet another friendly in September, and an equaliser in Toronto against Brazil (again) the following November.
His penchant for coming up with goals in the big games, as well as notching in the all-important qualifiers, is a tremendous attribute and can only stand Vargas and Chile in good stead when they face off against Spain, Holland and Australia in June.
A best ever finish of 3rd in 1962 may be tough to match with the group that Chile face, however with Vargas firing on all cylinders and his exceptional supporting cast of Alexis Sanchez and Matias Fernandez, they will be a hard side to beat, and a terrific team to watch.
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