- Aranguiz: “The aim is to fight to try to win the trophy.”
- Chile international midfielder scored first Leverkusen goal last weekend.
- Copa America takes place in the USA this June.
It is just under 11 months since Charles Aranguiz lifted the Copa America aloft in his hometown of Santiago, but the Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Chile star is already aiming to repeat the feat in New Jersey this summer.
A special centenary edition of the tournament is to be hosted in the United States in June – the first time the competition will take place outside of South America – and will provide a stage on which a number of Bundesliga stars are set to shine, Aranguiz prominent among them. Drawn in Group D, holders Chile will face Bolivia, Panama and Argentina - who La Roja overcame in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the final last July.
'I really want to be there'
“The aim is to fight to try to win the trophy [again],” Aranguiz told bundesliga.com in an exclusive interview. “We’re the champions, and not much time has passed since the last tournament. We want to show why we were champions last time around.”
The 27-year-old midfielder is one of 40 players selected by new Chile coach, Juan Antonio Pizzi, in a preliminary squad, with Aranguiz hoping his recent displays in Germany will be enough to ensure his name is among the final 23 when the list is whittled down. “I hope to be chosen to go to the Copa under the new coach [Pizzi],” he said. “But he’ll decide whether or not I’m part of the squad; obviously I really want to be there.”
Also in Pizzi’s preliminary selection are Aranguiz’s fellow Bundesliga stars Arturo Vidal (FC Bayern München), Eduardo Vargas (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim) and Miiko Albornoz (Hannover 96). The European experience of the former two in particular – both Santiago natives like Aranguiz – could prove key in Chile’s attempt to retain the trophy, believes the Leverkusen star.
Praise for the Bundesliga contingent
“In recent years there have definitely been a lot of Chileans playing in Europe and that benefits the national team,” he said. “Eduardo is a very quick, very strong player and when he’s given the playing time he’s always going to be scoring goals. Arturo is obviously a different player, he’s a warrior and someone who fights; a player who really adds to a team.”
Last summer’s performances during Chile’s triumph – Aranguiz scored twice en route to the final and slotted a key penalty in trademark fashion during the nerve-wracking shootout against Argentina – as well as his displays for Leverkusen since returning from a serious ankle injury have done no harm to his own hopes of making the cut.
Indeed, after recording two assists since his debut on Matchday 28, Aranguiz – known as El Principe (the Prince) in Chile – scored his first goal for Die Werkself in a 2-1 defeat at Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 33. “[It felt] good, scoring a goal is always going to help you and increase your confidence,” Aranguiz said. “There’s one game left [of the season] now and I hope to keep making the most of the time I play so that I can go to the national team in good shape.”
Ready for the season finale
Such recent performances have underlined why Leverkusen were so keen to secure his signature from Brazilian side SC Internacional after last summer’s Copa, although before Aranguiz embarks on another international adventure, there remains the Matchday 34 clash with FC Ingolstadt 04 to navigate successfully.
“It’s an important game,” said Aranguiz. “Obviously it’ll be a difficult game – they all are – but I’ve got a lot of confidence in this group. We want to end the season as well as possible and in front of our own fans in our home stadium on a high.” Aranguiz will no doubt also be hoping to end on another high at the MetLife Stadium on 26 June.
Charles Aranguiz was speaking to bundesliga.com's Daniel Thacker