Imagine you’re creating the perfect cup tie. Some things you’d definitely want are; two well-performing teams, high-quality players and a ferocious fan atmosphere. Ñublense v Colo-Colo was a match with all of those ingredients and more. Ñublense came back superbly to win 2-1, despite Colo-Colo’s high-class substitutes. Hosts, Ñublense, played a 4-3-3 and dominated possession and most of the match. They played their way around Colo-Colo’s high press often and it seems that they are a team with an excellent technical floor. It’s little surprise that they’re in third place in the Chilean top flight. What would be a surprise to anyone who watched *only* this match is that Colo-Colo is first and 9 points ahead of Ñublense. Their 4-2-3-1 helped them press high but had very little of the ball in the first half. Colo-Colo had a better second half but was unable to hold their lead and lost the match late on. Despite the loss and their centre-backs’ inability to calmly pass the ball, two young players could emerge with their heads held high: Vicente Pizarro and Bruno Gutiérrez
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
- C – Average for level, re-watch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: Chilean
- Age: 19
- Date of birth: 05/11/2002
- Current club: CSD Colo-Colo
- Career: CSD Colo-Colo
- Position: Defensive Midfielder
- Secondary position: Central Midfielder
- Preferred foot: Left
Few positions cause as much debate and confusion as the “defensive midfielder”. Who is a “6”? McTomminay, Kanté, Rodri? Different systems require different things from their 6. Some need a safe and secure passer that dictates the tempo, like Jorginho. Another needs a destroyer that wins the ball back 8 times a match, like Ndidi. Most systems will need someone that can do both to an extent. Someone like Vicente Pizarro, who played as a defensive midfielder in a double pivot in this match. Pizarro’s role was to win the ball from the ball-dominant opposition and then build the play using short passes to the other midfielders, one-twos and longer balls to the forwards. His centre-backs defended reasonably well in the air but they never got control of the second ball. Pizarro had a monumental task in winning these.
Ideally, your 6 would be taller than 172cm, but Pizarro is absolutely not a defensive liability. He has a slim build but has very good core strength so he can crunch into tackles, as he likes to do. He is a wonderfully balanced and elegant player, even when lunging into challenges. Pizarro is quite quick but his positioning is outstanding, so he was never in a position where he needed to sprint back. Agility is a strength of Pizarro’s, but not his best one. He showed an ability to dribble and glide through a press but clearly prefers to pass the ball whenever possible.
I can tell you that Pizarro is a great passer of the ball. But that isn’t quite effective enough and doe not do justice to the elegance, excellence and precision of his passing. So here’s a more vivid description. When he passes the ball at short and medium range, Pizarro slides the ball along the ground like a curler (someone who plays curling (a niche British sport)) slides a stone across the ice straight into the middle of the target. At long range, his left foot delivers the ball to exactly where he wants it to go like a dart player guides a dart onto triple 20. This passing is done with such composure, such nonchalance, that it makes for compulsive viewing. His first touch is superb and he can control the ball and turn on a dime. I expected Pizarro to be weak in the tackle and easy to bypass as a 6. I was very wrong. Pizarro positions himself in the optimal place to make the tackle, times the challenge to perfection then slides in and almost grabs the ball with his legs. This is stunningly impressive as he doesn’t even loose the second ball when going to the ground for challenges. He would be perfect for a supremely ball-dominant team, as he cannot be pressed. At all. I didn’t see him doing this during the match, but he would be exceptional and perfectly suited to dropping between the defenders to pick up the ball and distribute from even deeper. If Maurizio Sarri created the perfect player for ‘Sarriball’ in a lab, the result would be Vicente Pizarro.
A large part of his press resistance is mental. He is always scanning the pitch and knows where his teammates, the opposition and the spaces are all the time. As I mentioned before, his positioning is outstanding. When receiving the ball he is always in a pocket of space and his body shape is never wrong. He is only 19 years old and can already do things that coaches spend hours on. Pizarro is so composed that I’d wholeheartedly trust him to take the final penalty in a World Cup final penalty shootout for Poland, even though he’s Chilean. I would be equally confident that he would score and unfazed by the pressure. An incredible thing to say about a 19-year-old, I know, but not false or unwarranted. Although he has the technical ability and confidence to try Hollywood passes, he doesn’t. He likes to play one-twos and simple passes but does try killer balls when an excellent opportunity presents itself to him. He might lack a bit of flair, but he can still make magic happen on the pitch. I think that Pizarro may be a perfectionist. If this theory is true, then it can only help his development and career. Pizarro is similar to and a mixture of Toni Kross and Sergio Busquets.
Rating – A1
Technically, mentally, and tactically outstanding at 19, I think Pizarro will have a great career in the highest echelons of European football. He’s yet to fully develop physically, but still young and that will come. His fundamentals are so strong that I have no doubt that he can play many times for Chile, in a top 5 league and even in the champions league. He’s already very good, but he still has room to grow and develop. It’s a risk, for sure, but I think Barcelona should sign him as the heir to Sergio Busquets.
- Nationality: Chilean
- Age: 20
- Date of birth: 25/06/2002
- Current club: CSD Colo-Colo
- Career: CSD Colo-Colo, CD Iquique (loan)
- Position: Right-Back
- Secondary position: Centre-Back
- Preferred foot: Right
Bruno is yet another talented academy prospect from Colo-Colo that has been given an opportunity in the first team. He is a right-back and played there in this match. Tasked with providing defensive solidity and attacking width, I’d say he did both well. He showed an ability to underlap and as well as overlap and impressed. It looks like Bruno is being eased into the Colo-Colo starting XI and will eventually be a key player for a title-winning Colo-Colo team.
At 184cm Bruno is tall and was one of the tallest players on the pitch. His height makes him a candidate to play as a central defender (something that he can definitely do), although he only played as a right-back in this match. Bruno has a tall and slim frame with just about enough muscle mass to not be labelled as “lanky”. Strong already, he could develop into a powerful central defender if he wanted to. He could easily gain more muscle mass, as his frame can undoubtedly handle it. It was only apparent very few times, but Bruno has a great leap. He can jump very high and would be extremely helpful defending set pieces. One thing I did not expect was his speed. It is impressive. He is very fast and can cover either a full flank and overlap or provide a safety net with his electric recovery pace. Bruno is also surprisingly agile given his height and can dribble quite comfortably.
I think Bruno is an excellent technical footballer. He can pass the ball very well and accurately with his right foot at short distances. He tends not to play long passes, but this may have been an instruction as the whole team played short passes whenever possible. Bruno is adept in tight spaces with the ball and passes the ball accurately under pressure. I can’t comment on his left foot as he did not use it at all. However, he was never in a position where he couldn’t use his dominant foot. So that is good positioning and anticipation in my book. Bruno showed an ability to dribble quite well with the ball down the right, but I think he would be much more useful as a centre-back who can bring the ball out of defence rather than a right-back who beats his man by the touchline. Bruno can cross the ball very well. He prefers low and powerful crosses but whatever kind he attempts, they are rarely off target. I’d say he is a good tackler and is able to deal with a powerful striker as well as tricky wingers, so that makes him quite an interesting prospect.
Bruno is a great leader at 20 years old and may well be a future Colo-Colo captain. He was instructing his much more experienced teammates where to pass the ball and what’s even more impressive is that they listened to him. As a right-back, Bruno shows good game intelligence by picking the right moments to bomb forward and knows when to stay back too. As well as being a confident leader, Bruno is very calm and composed. He deals with pressure well and I didn’t see him switch off at any point. Another very impressive trait for a young defender. Everything I saw from him strongly suggests he is an intelligent, communicative and composed defender.
Rating – A2
Although he played very well at right-back, I don’t think that’s his best position or where his skill set is best utilised. I would like to see Bruno develop into an elite centre-back. Stylistically, he is a close match to Wesley Fofana. He would be comfortable in a back 3 or 4 and at right-back. Apart from an expansive passing range, there’s almost nothing missing from Bruno’s game as a central defender. He’s quick, smart, and strong. And he will get even quicker, stronger and smarter. Bruno is another gem that Colo-Colo has developed. He will be in the senior national team very soon and should get a move to Europe in the near future. Pizarro has played more minutes and shown reliability and consistency, so he is more ready for a move to Europe but once Bruno has a full season of performances like this, then he will be an excellent signing for a team like Benfica, Porto, Ajax or Lille.