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Bielsa shuns credit for Chile revival

By Brian Homewood

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Marcelo Bielsa has shunned the credit for the huge improvement in Chilean football that has taken place since he became national team coach three years ago.

Chile, in a shambolic state when he took charge, have become one of the strongest teams in South America since Bielsa took over and face Brazil in a World Cup last 16 match Monday.

The reclusive, enigmatic Bielsa, who was in charge of his native Argentina when they suffered a first round exit in 2002, has been given hero status in his adopted country, something he made clear he was uncomfortable with.

"It isn't false modesty, the credit has to be shared around," he told reporters. "This is undeniable, it's a fact, it's not a point of view."

"This team includes five players who were in the team which reached the semi-finals of the world under-20 championship in Canada (in 2007).

"It's only fair that the coach of that team (Jose Sulantay) gets recognition for the development of these players."

"The working conditions which Chilean football enjoys are similar to the ones in the first world, and this is thanks to the federation who should feel that they are part of this success.

"The Chilean clubs have improved their standards, they have made important signings and they should also be entitled to think they have contributed."

NOT REVENGE

Bielsa became Chile's sixth coach in as many years when he took over in 2007.

The team had been knocked out of the Copa America after a 6-1 defeat by Brazil and six players were then suspended for 20 matches each for indiscipline at the team hotel.

These included midfielder Jorge Valdivia, now a key member of the squad.

The one area in which Chile have not improved is against Brazil. They have lost their last seven meetings against the five-times world champions, including two under Bielsa.

Bielsa said he rejected the idea of revenge to describe Monday's match.

"The word revenge is a term which implies a conduct that I do not allow to invade my activities, and certainly not when it involves a football match," he said.

"The idea of avenging a defeat appears to me to be an exaggeration. We lost those games but tomorrow is a new chapter and it doesn't appear correct in any case to anticipate something which we have not yet obtained.

"I would like to be exempted from fantasizing over this position."

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

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