Following England’s 2-0 defeat at home to Chile in Friday’s friendly, the Saturday morning press response suggests that few had seen this Wembley humbling coming.
Adjectives such as “sluggish”, “below-par”, “despondent” and “disappointing” leave no doubt as to where the blame lies for this result when it comes to Fleet Street’s finest, with the usual habit of searching for scapegoats rather than lauding the victors firmly on show.
And although Roy Hodgson’s side had shown solid form of late, unbeaten in ten games following automatic qualification from their World Cup group, they, along with fans and journalists alike, should have known better than to take their opponents lightly.
Chile came into the game themselves on an unbeaten run, theirs stretching nine games, including matches against Spain, Brazil and Uruguay. Finishing third in their qualifying group behind group winners Argentina and a reinvigorated Columbian side, and with their previous visit to Wembley being a 2-0 victory in 1998, the Chileans should not have been underestimated.
The suggestion that England’s preparations were geared more towards Tuesday’s match with old foes Germany may well be a valid one, given that Hodgson’s experimental side boasted three debutants, Celtic ‘keeper Fraser Forster alongside Southampton duo Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez. Had he been fit, it is expected Rickie Lambert would have made it a Saints trio, spearheading England’s attack ahead of Wayne Rooney,
Surprisingly or not, Chile proved the better team, outclassing England with the sort of speedy interplay and comfortable possession that most of the South Americans sides will no doubt have on show at next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
All five of the continent’s representatives made it through the group stages four years ago, and with no team from outside the continent having won the World Cup on South American soil, there’s no reason not to expect another strong showing.
Led by the endless energy and skill of Alexis Sanchez, at 40/1 Chile could well become the standout outsider pick. Under the tutelage of the likeable Jorge Sampaoli, they’ve undoubtedly improved since their second round place last time round.
In Sanchez, Eduardo Vargas and Matias Fernandez, they boast an attacking trio of some potency, often opting for the Spanish approach of flooding the attack with pace and mobility instead of pivoting around traditional brawn.
With full backs keen to bomb down the flanks, Sampaoli’s high-tempo approach doesn’t often breed clean sheets (their shut out at Wembley was only their third in nine games, with their previous two at home to Venezuela and Iraq) but with 25 goals scored in that same timeframe, Chile could well become everyone’s second team in Brazil.
They’ll surely face a sterner challenge against the 2014 hosts in Canada on Wednesday, with Brazil likely to be more aware of their threats than England were. Should Sampaoli’s men pass that latest test, the 40/1 on offer for La Roja could prove very tempting indeed.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.