England's World Cup preparations began with a 2-0 defeat to Chile at Wembley on Friday night, as Roy Hodgson's team struggled to break down their well-organised South American opponents and were found wanting defensively.
Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez scored both goals for the visitors, capitalising on generous defending with a pair of clinical finishes.
Sanchez's first came on seven minutes—a header at the far post that could be blamed on a dip in concentration from Leighton Baines. His second arrived three minutes into injury time and saw Sanchez with time to confidently chip Fraser Forster in the England goal.
Chile fans rightly celebrated wildly. Their scalp represented just the second defeat of the Hodgson reign, and it was arguably deserved.
Jorge Sampaoli's team achieved nine victories from 16 games in qualifying and arrived in England ranked 12th in the world—just two places below England.
Though they conceded territory for much of the game, Chile took confidence from Sanchez's early goal and denied England space in the final third.
That, combined with an experimental England lineup struggling for fluidity and lacking quality in decisive areas, led to home defeat for Hodgson's team that asked more questions than it provided answers.
Debuts were handed to Southampton duo Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez, but neither managed to further their case.
Without Steven Gerrard anchoring midfield, England lacked shape and found it hard to keep possession. Baines was far from the rampaging presence we've come to know at Everton, and his performance did more for Ashley Cole's prospects than his own.
Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshere were the sole bright spots—bringing their trademark combination of intensity and quality to the cause and representing England's best hope.
Something we already know, but where's England's Diaz, Busquets, Pirlo, Schweini? Someone to sit deep & recycle effortlessly. Still nowhere.— Alex Richards (@AA_Richards) November 15, 2013
England's best chances came in the first half. Phil Jones had a header well saved by Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who also denied Lampard from a free-kick.
A home crowd in excess of 60,000 expected more in the second half, but it never arrived. Rooney and Wilshere toiled, but the final ball was nearly always lacking. Meanwhile, Chile blocked space and harried like their lives depended on it.
Surprised at strength of reaction to England defeat. Squad limitations were already clear. Perhaps people resent losing a Friday evening.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) November 15, 2013
With defeat conceded, it was left to Alexis to put the icing on the cake—with a delightful finish, oozing with class and composure, that reinforced what was lacking from England all evening.
Hodgson: "We lost to a better team ... they were very skilful ... lessons to be learned ... nearly a whole team [of 1st picks] didn't play."— sportingintelligence (@sportingintel) November 15, 2013
Select player grades
Wayne Rooney (7)—Lots of hard work from Rooney, as ever, but he couldn't quite find the passes he wanted to. It wasn't his fault he lacked the quality around him
Adam Lallana (6)—Worked like a dog, but he delivered little in terms of a memorable effort. Hopefully he'll get another chance.
Fraser Forster (6)—The Celtic goalkeeper couldn't have stopped either goal. Outside of that, he had little to be measured on.