As FIFA World Cup™ fever swept Chile in 1962, the excitement in the South American nation was not just limited to the four stadiums staging the matches. Host nation fans were desperate to catch a glimpse of their heroes however, whenever they could, travelling near and far to see national treasures such as Leonel Sanchez, Jaime Ramirez and Jorge Toro.
These passionate supporters, propped up on bicycles around the Chilean training headquarters to give themselves a better view of the stars in Santiago, were daring to dream. A place in the FIFA World Cup Final was in touching distance for La Roja – and these eager fans were savouring the occasion.
Chile had overcome formidable opposition in the form of a star-studded Italy to reach the quarter-finals, where they then dispatched inaugural European champions Soviet Union to book a place in the final four. Confidence was high after impressive results and a mouth-watering semi-final against reigning champions Brazil stood in their way of a maiden World Cup Final.
Though pre-tournament favourites, Brazil had stuttered rather than steamrolled into the semi-finals. Without Pele, who suffered an injury in A Seleção’s second group-stage match which ruled him out of the rest of the tournament, Brazilian hopes were placed on Garrincha to inspire the side to victory.
After netting a brace against England in a 3-1 quarter-final victory, the exhilarating winger had bagged another after 32 minutes against Chile in the Estadio Nacional. Trailing by two goals in Santiago, the hosts continued to battle valiantly and halved the deficit through Jorge Toro’s sumptuous free-kick just before half-time, enabling the home fans to dream once again.
But even though the hosts mounted a formidable challenge, they were ultimately denied by two second-half goals from Vava – the first coming from a Garrincha corner – while there was still time for Honorino Landa and Garrincha to receive their marching orders in the 4-2 thriller.
"We always knew it was going to be a difficult game," said Brazil defender Mauro. "Chile were a good side with two or three excellent players, plus they had the crowd behind them. But fortunately Garrincha was unstoppable that day."
While Chile and their supporters were naturally devastated to miss out on a dream World Cup Final on home soil, they were able to take some solace in defeating Yugoslavia in the Match for Third Place – the nation’s highest finish to date. 55 years on from 1962, Chile prepare to take on Argentina in World Cup qualifying this month, where La Roja will hope to end their campaign with a place at Russia 2018, which would be their tenth world finals appearance.
Now boasting two successive Copa America titles to their name, could Chile go one better than 1962 by reaching the final of Russia 2018?
Did you know?
A used official match ball from the 1962 FIFA World Cup can be found on display at the FIFA World Football Museum.