December 03, 2012

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- Jorge Sampaoli was appointed Chile's national team coach on Monday to replace Claudio Borghi, who was fired last month with the South Americans struggling in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

An Argentine, Sampaoli stepped aside earlier in the day as the coach of Chile club Universidad de Chile .

Sampaoli has a big job in front of him, and he made reference to it with his first words after being introduced.

"We are obligated to get Chile to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil,'' said Sampaoli, who has a contract until 2015.

At the midway point of qualifying for the World Cup, Argentina leads with 20 points, three ahead of Ecuador and four more than Colombia. Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela have 12 each. The top four qualify for the World Cup and the fifth team faces a playoff for a further spot. Brazil qualifies automatically as host.

South American qualifying for the World Cup resumes in June.

Sampaoli said part of his job would be instilling national pride in a team that has had problems with player discipline.

"For me, the most important thing is the dedication we can instill in the players related to the flag,'' he said. "For us it serves to remind player of the importance of wearing the national team shirt.''

Chile reached the second round of the 2010 World Cup under Marcelo Bielsa, who was enormously popular but stepped quit in a dispute with officials of the Chilean federation. Borghi replaced him but had less success. He was fired in mid-November after a 3-1 loss in a friendly against Serbia, the South American's fifth straight defeat.

Sampaoli is considered a disciple of Bielsa, another Argentine who moved to Spanish club Athletic Bilbao.

References to Bielsa were made several times in the news conference, which seemed to make the head of the Chilean federation, Sergio Jadue, uncomfortable. Jadue was involved in the disputes that saw Bielsa leave.

"We did everything we could to have him (Bielsa) continue as the national coach,'' Jadue said, adding it was the last time he wanted to answer questions about Bielsa.

Sampaoli took over Universidad de Chile two years ago. He won the league title six months later. A year ago the club won the Copa Sudamericana, the No. 2 club tournament in South America. It was the club's first continental title.

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