With qualification sealed, England’s preparations for next year’s World Cup begin with the visit of an energetic Chile side to Wembley on Friday (20:00 GMT, live on ITV1).
Victories over Montenegro and Poland last month were sufficient for England to win their qualifying group. The Three Lions finished the campaign undefeated with 22 points from six victories and four draws, a point clear of Ukraine in second.
Roy Hodgson came under criticism following the stale 0-0 draw away to Ukraine in September, but England were much improved in their final two matches, attacking with rare vibrancy and incision, scoring six and conceding just once.
Andros Townsend, fresh from a good start to the season with Tottenham Hotspur, proved a well-chosen wildcard, performing well in both matches, while Wayne Rooney (pictured) continued his excellent run of goalscoring form for the national team with a goal in each match, taking him to nine in his last 10 appearances in England white.
Leighton Baines underlined his claim to Ashley Cole’s left-back spot with two highly competent displays, while Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck also performed well.
Frank Lampard, who won his 100th cap back in September, will captain England on Friday, adding experience to a side that will probably feature a number of the squad’s younger talents. Everton’s Ross Barkley, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Southampton’s Adam Lallana, all of whom are in good form at club level, will be hoping for a chance to impress.
Hodgson is likely to use the match as an opportunity to test alternatives to goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has been dropped at club level after a number of high-profile errors. Celtic’s Fraser Forster and John Ruddy of Norwich are expected to play a half each.
Steven Gerrard is likely to be rested with the friendly against Germany next Tuesday in mind, while a minor injury could also sideline his Liverpool teammate Sturridge. Michael Carrick pulled out of the squad with a achilles injury that could keep him out of action for up to six weeks, while a minor knee injury forced the withdrawal of his club mate Welbeck.
Chile come into the match in excellent form, having won eight and lost just one of the 12 internationals they have played this year. That run includes friendly draws against Brazil and Spain, both of whom struggled to impose themselves in the face of Chile’s energetic pressing.
Chile were one of neutral’s favourites at the last World Cup, playing a dynamic attacking game under the leadership of Marcelo Bielsa. After a brief, unsuccessful, interlude under Claudio Borghi, they have returned to that style of play with Jorge Sampaoli, a devout Bielsista who enjoyed great success at club level with Universidad de Chile.
The current Chile squad contains a number of his former charges, including defender Jose Rojas, wing-back Eugenio Mena, midfielders Charles Aranguiz and Marcelo Diaz, and forward Eduardo Vargas. They are joined by more well-recognised names such as Arturo Vidal, Mauricio Isla and Alexis Sanchez to form a team full of both energy and ability.
If there is a weakness, it is in defence. When their press works effectively, the opposition is kept far enough away from the Chilean goal for this not to be a major problem. But they look very uncomfortable when penned back or facing set pieces, lacking height and defensive smarts in and around their own penalty area.
Sampaoli has one major absentee for Friday’s match, with midfielder Vidal set to miss out after picking up a thigh injury in Juventus’ 3-0 win over Napoli last weekend. Goalkeeper Johnny Herrera has been denied an entry visa into Canada for Chile’s friendly against Brazil next Tuesday, but will be part of their bench on Friday.
England vs Chile Betting Tips Verdict
These countries last met in 1998, when Marcelo Salas scored both goals in a 2-0 victory for Chile at Wembley. In total, they have met on five previous occasions, with two wins for England, one for Chile and two draws, including a 0-0 at Wembley in 1989.
Chile’s aggressive pressing will put a lot of strain on the England defence and midfield in possession and could well force England to adopt a more direct route forward. This may, in fact, be to their advantage against a less than imposing Chilean defence.
At the other end, Chile have scored in each of their last nine internationals and have the necessary dynamism and quality in attack to cause the England defence plenty of problems.
This is a determined, highly competitive Chilean team and one that is more than capable of coming away from Wembley with a good result.
- Back Chile +0.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 39/40 with Bet365.
- Each of Chile’s last eight internationals have ended with three or more goals, as have five of England’s last eight internationals at Wembley. The manner in which Chile play all but guarantees goals and we expect to see plenty in this match. Back over 2.5 goals @ 10/11 with William Hill or Paddy Power.