England Vs Chile
Nov 15, 2013 at 8pm (UK)
It will be an experimental England side that faces Chile in an international friendly at Wembley on Friday. With World Cup qualification secured, the England manager was always likely to use this game, and not the impending friendly against Germany, to assess players on the fringes of the national team. But Roy Hodgson will be forced to dig deep into his squad with Danny Welbeck, Michael Carrick, Steven Gerrard, Kyle Walker, Rickie Lambert, Daniel Sturridge and potentially Jack Wilshere all missing the game through injury. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Hodgson noted:
“I’ve got to put the performances in front of protecting an unbeaten run. I do need in these two games to have a look at one or two players who are heavily knocking on the door and deserve a chance to show what they can do.”
“There are only these two matches plus the one in March to do that before the squad is named. I can’t dismiss the need to give some playing time to people we need to know more about.”
The argument has long raged that regardless of form or talent, the likelihood of being selected for England is greatly diminished if you don’t play for one of the Premier League’s vaunted “big teams.” Southampton and Celtic will be amongst those hoping to prove that top-class domestic talent can indeed be found outside of London, Manchester and Liverpool.
England’s starting goalkeeper is subject to considerable speculation. Despite Joe Hart’s troubling form for Manchester City this season, Hodgson has up until now chosen to stick by his preferred number one. With Hart now confirmed on the bench, Fraser Forster is likely to win his first cap. Forster has been in excellent form for Celtic, particularly in the UEFA Champions League, where his performances against Barcelona earned him the nickname “La Gran Muralla” (The Great Wall) from the Spanish press.
Similarly the Southampton duo of Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez will be hoping that consistently eye-catching club performances have convinced Hodgson they merit a chance to shine on the international stage. The England manager was in attendance at St. Mary’s last Saturday to watch the Saints demolish Hull and Lallana could not have picked up a better time to score a goal of Bralizian-esque individual talent.
All but the most ardent England fans will be traveling to Brazil more in hope than expectation next summer and few give them a realistic chance of getting much beyond the group stages. Even Football Association chairman Greg Dyke doesn’t anticipate the national team reaching a major semi-final before 2020. As such, the case is growing for England to use the next World Cup as an opportunity to blood new talent and give promising younger players valuable experience. Arguably, a game against Chile with no points on the line presents a perfect opportunity to gauge how well the Three Lions stack up against non-European competition.
With Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney automatically on the team sheet, there are still plenty of other starting places up for grabs to the next generation. At left back, the quietly impressive Kieran Gibbs might have reason to hope that he can steal some playing time from the 32 year old Ashley Cole ahead of Leighton Baines. Gibbs’ young Arsenal team mates Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlin remain long-term injury absentees so there are also opportunities in the wide positions. Andros Townsend, while not playing with great consistency at Spurs, surprised many with his confident first appearances in an England shirt. Meanwhile the 19 year old Ross Barkley has played a pivotal role in Everton’s surprise start to their Premier League.
Chile will arrive in London confident and in good form, finishing a creditable third in their South American World Cup qualifying campaign. Jorge Sampaoli’s are a good blend of youth and experience and are tactically sophisticated enough to sometimes play without a recognized striker. Even so Eduardo Vargas, and Alexis Sanchez will give the England defense a thorough examination with Marcelo Diaz and Charles Anranguiz very capable midfield anchors. Chile will even be bringing their own “pitbull” as the combative defensive midfielder Gary Medel is known. However creative and experimental the usually cautious Roy Hodgson gets with his team selection on Friday, this will be an excellent opportunity for him to assess how England might fare in far bigger South American tests.