What if Chile had won the 2017 Confederations Cup?

The 2017 Confederations Cup final was but seven minutes old when Chile’s Arturo Vidal sent midfielder Charles Aranguiz through into the German box with a chance to shoot on goal from close in. Aranguiz’s first touch and Antonio Rudiger’s challenge combined to put the Chilean off his stride and stumbling too far left of goal for a shot, as Marc-Andre ter Stegen quickly closed the near-post angle. Aranguiz recovered by turning full round and finding Vidal charging in. Aranguiz’s pass found Vidal who shot, from the corner of the goalie’s box. His strike made it past the stretched legs of German defenders but was met by ter Stegen’s foot. Save!

Goal averted. A golden opportunity to put Chile ahead early on went begging.

For the first eighteen minutes of the match Chile controlled the game with almost continual possession save one German foray, which led to a corner kick that was quickly cleared.

At the nineteenth minute, Vidal took a powerful shot from about 25 yards out that ter Stegen was lucky to parry with a diving save. The save propelled the ball into the path of the onrushing Alexis Sanchez just as ter Stegen was getting up onto his knees. Seeing the Chilean so close, the keeper spread his arms in attempt to make himself big and then leaned forward to block what he thought would be Sanchez’s shot. But the striker had caught a glimpse of a teammate trailing the play and instead of shooting attempted to pass the trailer the ball. But the goalkeeper’s position forced an awkward backward pass and the ball sailed behind and well past the closing Aranguiz.

Goal averted. A golden opportunity to put Chile ahead early on went begging.

A minute later an amateurish mistake by defender Marcelo Diaz gifted Germany a tap-in, empty-net goal at the 20th minute for the game’s only score.

Chile would go on to maintain 66% of possession, take 22 shots at goal and get eight on target, forcing Germany’s ter Stegen to make six tough and two easy saves. Six of those opportunities where true goal-scoring chances. Germany would have only three shots on target all game long but one was from two yards out and without anyone but the scorer present in most photos of the goal.

But what if any one of Chile’s multiple scoring chances had gone in?

A draw would lead to extra time and maybe favor the younger Germans, but it might also have led to an eventual shoot-out. Joaquin Low dreaded that Claudio-Bravo- saturated possibility.

And what if instead of the professional football standard of 50% of true goal scoring opportunities becoming goals, only 33% of Chile’s created opportunities had materialized? They would have won 2-1.

Would we be speaking about a coming German-dominated football landscape then or heralding the greatest Chilean generation? Would the tag lines be about the glorious, young, selfless near-nobodies of the German machine or of the artful fusing of Chile’s once-in-a-lifetime stars? Can we truly build an altar atop victories over Cameroon, Australia, and Mexico? Can you define an earned victory by such a singularly serendipitous gifted goal?

The bottom line was that Chile was the better team and simply missed its ample opportunities to score, while Germany was a good team, that earned this tournament’s final while avoiding Portugal, and stumbled upon a single game-winning-goal gifted by an uncharacteristic mistake from the team with the best defense in the tournament. Low put his team in the position to win, but they truly lucked out.

The post-tournament takeaways for some will be that Germany has produced an assembly line of world class athletes (to whose surprise?) and that those athletes are being trained as football players of the highest caliber. And that is a story. The focus on football technique as opposed to physical attributes has been Germany’s avowed objective, now accomplished. Yet we knew this three years ago. Really! Who missed Brazil 2014? Similarly, we left knowing Chile’s double South American cup winners are a generation to behold. But then again who missed the back to back Copa Americas, Chile 2015 and USA 2016? We already knew all of this.

What we might glean from the two games these teams produced is their potential roles come Russia 2018.

It would not be a stretch to say that Chile and Germany will both be in Russia in 2018. The former will attend with one of the better sides and fancying their chances to go deep into the tournament. The latter will, with a blend of veterans and newbies, attend as the near prohibitive favorite to win it all again. Both teams showed they had what it takes to make it far into the tourney. That said, should these two national teams meet again, at full strength on both sides, and should luck and officiating occupy the background, we should not expect a one-sided affair, a blow-out, but instead a tight, evenly-matched, and exiting contest. It would not be a major surprise if these two were to meet in the final next summer, and that would be a classic, one that could go either way, really.