WEMBLEY, LONDON — Jorge Sampaoli labelled Wembley Stadium a "cathedral" for football in the pre-match programme ahead of England's tussle with Chile.
On face value it looked a little like the tactician was awestruck, but as soon as he stepped onto the pitch it was clear the man exudes confidence in his side.
Alexis Sanchez scored a goal in each half to condemn England to a 2-0 loss on home turf, placing Roy Hodgson's World Cup preparations into the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
No Arturo Vidal? No problem. No Jorge Valdivia? Again, Sampaoli isn't losing any sleep over it. Chile have crafted an "identity"—something every player subscribes to and every player believes in.
The same cannot be said for England. It's an issue the nation has carried for some time, but nothing has been done to solve it. Hodgson's men are frequently lambasted for using a 4-4-2 formation, then ridiculed just as badly when they try something else—and fail.
Coping without Vidal and Fernandez is not something England would be able to do were the tables to be turned, but Chile looked just fine. The replacements drafted in—Jean Beausejour and Matias Fernandez—seamlessly slotted into a well-oiled red machine.
Meanwhile, half the England team pressed while the other half sat back, chaos reigned supreme and the absence of Steven Gerrard as a regista-esque influence appeared colossal.
We witnessed a visiting side who frequently play a 3-4-3, yet injuries dictated a switch to the 4-3-3. Both Eugenio Mena and Charles Aranguiz had their positions changed for the exhibition, yet had you not watched Chile before you'd not have noticed it.
Contrast this to the blatant lack of chemistry between Jay Rodriguez and Leighton Baines, or Glen Johnson and Adam Lallana, and you get the feeling England's familiarity is built upon the wrong foundations.
That's not a slight on the debutants' performances—more a worry surround the culture of England's national football team.
Chile came to England and had a game plan. They executed said game plan, and in the process they stopped England from executing theirs.
Hodgson's men found themselves initiating quick counters, matching Chile's energy, yet that can't have been the strategy laid out by the coach pre-game. It didn't play to the side's strengths.
La Roja have a system in place in which any player can slot in and perform a job; each and every one of the 22 players Sampaoli brought to Wembley knew the ins and outs of the formation and playing style.
It's what's led to Brazil's renaissance under Luiz Felipe Scolari in parts, and it's what's lead Barcelona and Spain to dynasties over the past six years. Chile presented a test that won't be uncommon at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and Hodgson's boys failed the first of a three-part test.
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