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Sport Brereton: From Blackburn to facing Messi with Chile

11:07  30 july  2021
11:07  30 july  2021 Source:   skysports.com

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When Chile face Neymar’s Brazil on Friday night in Rio de Janeiro, Martin Lasarte’s La Roja line-up will likely include Blackburn Rovers forward Ben Brereton . Born in Stoke-on-Trent, 22-year-old Brereton qualifies to play for Chile through his mother, Andrea Diaz. He speaks barely a word of Spanish, yet he is taking full But come the tournament opener, another 1-1 draw with Messi ’s Argentina, Lasarte felt he was ready. Alexis Sanchez was out injured so with 30 minutes to go, the young Blackburn man emerged from the bench with the No.22 shirt bearing the name Brereton Diaz, a nod to his mixed roots.

Chile got their first win of the Copa America thanks to an unlikely hero on Friday night, with Englishman Ben Brereton making a big impact for the South American nation. He scored eight goals in 53 appearances across two seasons in the Championship for Forest before being loaned to Blackburn , subsequently sealing a permanent move. Brereton is coming off the back of his strongest season in the English second-tier, having netted seven times and registered four assists in the Championship in 2020-21.

In a summer of big sporting headlines, Blackburn Rovers forward Ben Brereton facing Lionel Messi in the Copa America for Chile has to be one of the strangest.

And that's not even mentioning the Pepsi commercial the 22-year-old Stoke-born player appeared in to introduce himself to his new-found supporters.

a man holding a football ball: Ben Brereton came up against Lionel Messi when Chile faced Argentina at this summer's Copa America © Getty Ben Brereton came up against Lionel Messi when Chile faced Argentina at this summer's Copa America

So how did Brereton, who has since added 'Diaz' to his surname, end up lining up alongside players like Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Bravo in this summer's South American tournament?

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Blackburn forward Ben Brereton has opted to play for Chile after being called up to face Argentina and Bolivia in World Cup qualifiers. The Stoke-born 22-year-old, who played for England at youth level, can represent Chile as his mother was born there. He has seven goals and five assists in the "I've known for quite a while that they [ Chile ] were looking at me, but I just kept my head down and wanted to do well for Blackburn Rovers. "Then just recently they've been in touch with me and my family, to let us know, and we've made the decision that we want to do it and give it my best shot.

Where is Ben Brereton from ? Brereton , 22, was born in Stoke-on-Trent and began his professional career at Nottingham Forest. His father is English but he is eligible to play for Chile because his mother was born in the South American country. He scored eight goals in 53 appearances across two seasons in the Championship for Forest before being loaned to Blackburn , subsequently sealing a permanent move. Brereton is coming off the back of his strongest season in the English second-tier, having netted seven times and registered four assists in the Championship in 2020-21.

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Despite representing England at youth level, Brereton qualifies for 'La Roja' through his mother, who was born in the country.

"The first time I heard I could play for Chile was when Blackburn were playing Preston away (in November) but as the season began to come to an end there was more talk about it and a few phone calls," Brereton exclusively told Sky Sports News.

"My mum always joked about it when I was younger, but we've never thought it would actually happen or to approach Chile about the possibility.

"For me it really was a no-brainer and these last couple of months have been a whole different level, it's just been crazy."

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Why is Brereton playing for Chile ? Brereton featured for England at youth level, and he played a starring role at the Under-19 European Championship in 2017. The Three Lions won that tournament, beating Portugal 2-1 in the final, with Brereton joint top scorer with three goals. Despite his exploits at youth level, Brereton has not been in contention for a place in the senior Three Lions squad and instead opted to accept the call-up to play for Chile this year. He was included in the squad for the first time in May and was an unused substitute in World Cup qualifying games against Argentina and Bolivia.

Why is Brereton playing for Chile ? Brereton featured for England at youth level, and he played a starring role at the Under-19 European Championship in 2017. The Three Lions won that tournament, beating Portugal 2-1 in the final, with Brereton joint top scorer with three goals. Despite his exploits at youth level, Brereton has not been in contention for a place in the senior Three Lions squad and instead opted to accept the call-up to play for Chile this year. He was included in the squad for the first time in May and was an unused substitute in World Cup qualifying games against Argentina and Bolivia.

After finishing the Championship season with a goal in a 5-2 win over Birmingham City, taking his tally to seven for the season, Brereton earned his maiden call-up for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Argentina and Bolivia.

Although he never made an appearance, he impressed enough to be included in the subsequent Copa America squad, making his debut from the bench against Argentina in a 1-1 draw.

"To make my debut against such a great team as Argentina, with the likes of Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, was such a great moment," Brereton said.

"I have a lot of photos on my phone, and my family are going to frame some of them as well as the shirts.

"They will be good memories for me as I go further down through my career - I'll look back at going to the Copa America and be thankful for making my family proud."

The next game, against Bolivia, Brereton was handed his first start and went on to score the winner in a 1-0 win before eventually going out at the quarter-final stage to Brazil.

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And it was Blackburn Rovers' English striker Ben Brereton who popped up with the decisive goal 10 minutes into the clash in what was just his second appearance for Chile . So who is he? Despite his exploits at youth level, Brereton has not been in contention for a place in the senior Three Lions squad and instead opted to accept the call-up to play for Chile this year. He was included in the squad for the first time in May and was an unused substitute in World Cup qualifying games against Argentina and Bolivia.

Chile got their first win of the Copa America thanks to an unlikely hero on Friday night, with Englishman Ben Brereton making a big impact for the South American nation. He scored eight goals in 53 appearances across two seasons in the Championship for Forest before being loaned to Blackburn , subsequently sealing a permanent move. Brereton is coming off the back of his strongest season in the English second-tier, having netted seven times and registered four assists in the Championship in 2020-21.

However, the remarkable summer and Brereton's impressive performances led to significant interest in the country and has seen him make a starring role in a Pepsi advert for the Chile fans.

"They phoned me after the Copa America and asked if I wanted to do one to break the ice in Chile," Brereton explained.

"I have seen some of the great Pepsi commercials in the past and it's a crazy thing to think about".

Domestically, Brereton admits he has struggled at Ewood Park since a big-money move from Nottingham Forest back in August 2018 but his international adventure this summer has given him fresh motivation for the upcoming season.

Brereton said: "When I first came here it was tough, I had a couple of years where I wasn't really playing the best football that I could.

"Last season I did well but the Copa America has definitely motivated me and driven me to do more and make me think more about the bigger picture.

"It's been a crazy experience and hopefully both myself and Blackburn can move onto better things now.

"I learnt a lot of things out there, different styles of play and I'm going to bring it back here (to Blackburn)."

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With Chile having more World Cup Qualifiers between September and October, navigating another South American adventure during Blackburn's Championship campaign may prove tricky but is a challenge the player is relishing.

"If I get called up I've got to speak to Blackburn and Chile and come to some conclusion as to how to work it because I don't want annoy either side.

"But if I did get called up again I would love to go, play more games and try to score more goals."

a man holding a football ball: Ben Brereton scored seven goals for Blackburn Rovers last season before heading to South America to play for Chile © PA Ben Brereton scored seven goals for Blackburn Rovers last season before heading to South America to play for Chile a person holding a football ball: Ben Brereton celebrates scoring his first goal for Chile against Bolivia at this summer's Copa America © Associated Press Ben Brereton celebrates scoring his first goal for Chile against Bolivia at this summer's Copa America

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This is interesting!