International friendlies always throw up a few shock results. However, England’s 2-0 defeat to Chile at a packed Wembley stadium should come as less of a surprise. The South American nation have crept up the FIFA rankings to a lofty 12th position and will be a force to be reckoned with at the 2014 World Cup. This however, is not one of the five reasons that England fans should not despair.
The following on the other hand, are.
1) Lallana is Brazilian.
Of course, it would be an area of concern if Adam Lallana did have Brazilian citizenship. Thankfully I have used a metaphor when a simile would have been more appropriate. One of three debutantes, Lallana was the most impressive as he demonstrated a mesmerizing fleet-footedness that, at times, Rivaldo would have been proud of. Where Southampton team-mate, Jay Rodriguez was panicked and hurried, Lallana looked at complete ease while wearing the prestigious number 9 shirt. He could, and perhaps should, have marked his England bow with a goal at the end of the first period. After neat link-up play with Rooney, he could only drag his effort wide via a deflection having delayed shooting for a fraction too long. Still, his industry and intelligence are likely to have moved him up in the pecking order for a midfield place.
2) Wayne Rooney is a changed man.
Over the summer months, there was an incredible amount of speculation linking Rooney with a move away from Old Trafford. It was said that it would be near impossible for him to rebuild a fractured working relationship with David Moyes, who had succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson at United. How wrong the press can be. The forward has begun the 2013/14 season with a ravenous appetite, hounding defenders to pick their pockets like Oliver Twist. He was instrumental in the Red Devils’ crunch victory over Arsenal and looked equally determined in an England shirt yesterday evening. Playing as a lone striker was always going to be a difficult task but was accomplished on the ball and regularly looked to play the ball through to midfield runners. He’s certainly returning to form.
3) One loss since the turn of the year.
It may be mid-November but yesterday marked the first time that England have succumbed to defeat this calendar year (and it wasn’t even a competitive match at that!) Yes okay, so we have lined up against the fearsome outfit of San Marino, whose population fails to exceed the capacity of most Premier League stadiums. Likewise, we have survived scares against both the Irish and the Scots, but it would be unfair to overlook a victory and a draw against next year’s World Cup hosts. It is pleasing to know that without playing the most swashbuckling soccer, England have been effective at grinding results out. Through both injury troubles and selection policy, the squad has had little time to settle and the results are testament to the character shown.
4) The right-back slot is sorted.
Glen Johnson played the full ninety minutes and confirmed exactly why Kyle Walker will start ahead of him in seven months time. In truth, the intelligent movement of the Chilean attacking line caused problems for all of England’s defenders, yet Johnson’s performance was spectacularly sub-standard. Leighton Baines has been rightly pulled up for allowing Alexis Sanchez to head home the opener, but the Evertonian was not alone in fault. After Wigan winger, Jean Beausejour collected possession, Johnson allowed him to pass the ball out wide. Liverpool’s full-back was then slow to close to cross down and the rest is history. Additionally, the lively Sanchez and Vargas frequently found space on England’s right flank when countering in the first-half and the former-Portsmouth star simply didn’t have the recovery speed to answer. Just when you thought that Johnson’s evening couldn’t get much worse, he was conspicuous by his absence in the other Chilean goal. Pushing for an equaliser, Johnson was caught up the field and as Sanchez coolly lobbed Forster, he can be seen ambling back some 30 yards from goal.
5) We’re better than the French.
Haunted by the tactical deficiencies that cost Harold Godwinson in 1066, English fans still derive great pleasure when our near neighbours are in stuttering footballing form. And that they are, currently embroiled in a real scrap to qualify for Brazil. As St George’s flags hung loosely around supporters’ waists yesterday evening, news that the French were on the receiving end of the same humbling score-line, soon meant that red and white was being brandished across London once again. Further satisfaction was gleaned from their opponents being Ukraine, the nation who England narrowly finished above in Group H – we don’t mention the bore draw played out in Kiev last September.
So there we have it, five reasons to not despair as an England football fan after defeat by Chile. Admittedly, some of the points may not instil much optimism either, but it’s worth remembering from time to time, that England are going to Brazil.