Roy Hodgson has confirmed that Southampton pair Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez will make their international debuts in England’s friendly with Chile at Wembley. With World Cup qualification secured, the duo have been rewarded for their fine early season form for the high-flying Saints with the chance to impress and get in Hodgson’s plans for next year’s World Cup. Indeed, there could have been even more of a Southampton flavor to Friday’s friendly, but for teammate Rickie Lambert’s absence through injury.
Hodgson is set to name a more experimental side against Chile than in the next Tuesday’s friendly against Germany. With Manchester United pair Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick already out of both matches, captain Steven Gerrard and defender Kyle Walker will be forced to sit out the clash with the South Americans. Gerrard’s absence means that Frank Lampard will take over as captain and be honored for the 100th cap he picked up against Ukraine in September.
Hodgson reaped the benefits of putting faith in youth in two key qualifiers last month when Andros Townsend helped inspire victories over Montenegro and Poland and arguably the two best performances of the England coach’s reign. He will be hoping that those that come into the side will inspire a display of similar verve on Friday.
It will be dangerous for Hodgson to be too experimental, however. While many in England are already focusing on the test that awaits against old rivals Germany, Chile promise to be formidable opponents. With their World Cup qualification campaign in real trouble at the turn of the year, Chile brought in Jorge Sampaoli as coach and have not looked back since. After losing his first qualifier in charge, the former Universidad de Chile boss led Chile to five wins out of six, with the other game being a 3-3 draw in Colombia when they surrendered a 3-0 lead.
That match plenty of clues as to how Chile play and why the match at Wembley should be more exciting than the average friendly fair. Like his fellow Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, who made Chile the best team to watch at the 2010 World Cup, Sampaoli sets his teams up to press high up the pitch and try and win the ball back quickly. The strategy, while based on a fundamental philosophy, also works in trying to limit the pressure on Chile’s weakest part of their team -- their defense. Indeed, Cardiff’s midfield “pitbull” Gary Medel operates in the backline for his nation. Going forward they can be exhilarating, though, with Barcelona’s in-form Alexis Sanchez and the talented Eduardo Vargas pulling wide.
Chile made people sit up and take notice the last time they visited Wembley when Marcelo Salas scored twice in a 2-0 victory in a friendly prior to World Cup ’98 and they could do similar on Friday. With England’s defense also their biggest weakness, goals should certainly be on the cards. An entertaining draw may be the result.
Prediction: England 2-2 Chile
Where to watch: The international friendly will kick off at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.