Jorge Valdivia, is successfully orchestrating Chile's attacks in South Africa from midfield.
Jorge Valdivia, is successfully orchestrating Chile's attacks in South Africa from midfield.

Pro League play is working for Chilean

Jorge Valdivia has proved that playing for Al Ain in the Pro League has not damaged his chances of representing Chile. He has cemented his place in the national side after winning the confidence of Marcelo Bielsa, the coach, and shares the creative role in the midfield with Matias Fernandez. Bielsa, the Argentine who has been in charge for the last three years, had fielded the two together only five times prior to the World Cup, and on all five occasions Chile had lost. However, they have formed a successful partnership in South Africa, helping their team win both their opening games.

Such is the quality of the two midfielders that Bielsa may continue to play them as Chile take on Spain tonight in their final Group H match. Valdivia and Fernandez, who is Argentine-born and plays for Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, had been locked in a long-running tussle for the creative midfield role behind the two main strikers. "It's normal to have two players in the same position and we are fighting for the one spot," Fernandez was quoted as saying by "Quite apart from the different characteristics we have as players, I'm working hard to be in the line-up and Jorge is too."

Abdulhameed al Mishtiki, the Al Ain coach, has known Valdivia for the past two years and worked with him at close quarters in the latter part of last season when he took charge as caretaker manager. "Valdivia has been a good asset for the club and continues to impress as an international player. I am watching and following his every move in the World Cup," said al Mishtiki, who is looking forward to working with him again soon after the World Cup.

"His success and Chile's success will naturally reflect on the two years he spent in the UAE. If you are as good a player as Valdivia, I don't think it will stop them from being noticed. His success at the highest level is a good sign for those who may be interested playing in the Gulf." Al Mishtiki and the players at the club are all awaiting his return to share his experiences in South Africa this summer.

"As a player, he is ever ready to help anyone of his colleagues who may want to share the skills he possesses," said Waleed Salem, the Al Ain goalkeeper. "When Chile play with Valdivia in the line-up, we look at that team as our own team. Hopefully they will not only reach the last 16 but go on and win the cup." Al Ain were successful in signing Valdivia in August 2008 from Palmeiras, the Brazilian club, on a four-year contract worth Dh76.6 million.

"Valdivia has been outstanding in the Pro League for the past two seasons and his presence in the World Cup has had several hundred Emirati fans rooting for Chile," said Munther Abdullah, a television analyst with the Abu Dhabi Sports channel. "However, his role is different when he plays for his national team. He is surrounded by several good players in the Chile team and he can do his job better with a one-touch or two-touch. At Al Ain, he has to do more, and obviously he can't achieve the same high results as he plays for his national team. And having to do the bulk of the work for his club may have helped him to get even better."

Our Time Has Come
Alyssa Ayres, Oxford University Press

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