England’s World Cup preparations began with a whimper on Saturday morning (AEDT), Alexis Sanchez scoring twice to give Chile a 2-0 victory in a low-key friendly at Wembley Stadium.
The in-form Barcelona forward struck in the seventh minute and again in injury time, taking his tally of goals to 10 in nine games for club and country and condemning England to defeat for the first time in 11 matches.
Fifteen years after a 2-0 win on their last visit to Wembley, Chile left with a spring in their step ahead of Tuesday’s friendly with Brazil in Toronto, having extended their own unbeaten run to 10 matches.
England manager Roy Hodgson, meanwhile, will hope for a more impressive showing from his side against Germany next week, when he is expected to name his strongest starting line-up.
He used Friday’s game to experiment, handing debuts to Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster and Southampton pair Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez, while Manchester United’s Phil Jones started at centre-back.
Chile were without injured midfielder Arturo Vidal and the visitors initially looked set for a long night, with goalkeeper Claudio Bravo athletically repelling a header from Jones and then preventing one of his defenders from putting through his own goal.
However, the visitors’ very first attack yielded a goal, with Sanchez stealing in front of Leighton Baines to head home Eugenio Mena’s left-wing cross at the end of an incisive counter-attack.
The unfamiliarity in the England line-up, allied with Chile’s adventurousness with the ball, made for an open first half in front of a stadium that, with 62,953 fans in attendance, was only two-thirds full.
Chile’s Britain-based contingent threatened Forster’s goal, meanwhile, with the Celtic goalkeeper saving from Wigan Athletic’s Jean Beausejour and seeing Cardiff City’s Gary Medel head over the bar.
England continued to press though, and after Jones went close with a deft volley from a corner, Wayne Rooney teed up Lallana for a shot that was deflected wide.
An anticipated raft of substitutions drew all of the sting from the game in the second half.
Hodgson introduced Chris Smalling, Andros Townsend, Jordan Henderson, Tom Cleverley and Ross Barkley, but they spent long periods chasing shadows as Chile’s nimble technicians smoothly exchanged passes.
A wayward 30-yard shot from Glen Johnson was the hosts’ only effort of note after the break and it was Sanchez who had the final say, racing clear of the England defence and coolly chipping Forster.
In Milan, Italy secured a 1-1 friendly draw at home to Germany with Ignazio Abate’s maiden Azzurri goal cancelling out Mats Hummels’ early opener at the San Siro.
Italy were dominated early on and paid the price when Hummels’ header went past Gianluigi Buffon in the Italy goal before bouncing off the post and into the net for an eighth-minute opener.
However Cesare Prandelli’s men, looking to protect an unbeaten record against Joachim Loew’s side that stretched back to 1995, were back on level terms thanks to Abate’s well-worked equaliser just before the half hour.
Italy’s defensive lapses, especially at set-pieces, were plain to see but the hosts made amends by finding the rhythm that was sorely lacking early in the first half.
But the final 10 minutes of the match were tense, following an ugly exchange between Toni Kroos and Thiago Motta, who was lucky not to see red after poking Kroos in the eye, which led to both players receiving cautions.