Five to watch
England will be expected to pick up a confidence-boosting win against Chile on Friday night but the South American visitors have World Cup ambitions of their own. Matt Stanger picks out five Chile players to watch out for at Wembley...
By Matt Stanger
Last Updated: 15/11/13 10:14am
Linked with Liverpool, Arsenal and, somewhat bizarrely, Middlesbrough, over the past 12 months, Vargas eventually opted to join Gremio on loan to end his European nightmare after failing to live up to the hype at Napoli. Big things were expected of the 23-year-old after he led Universidad de Chile to the Copa Sudamericana in 2011 - managed by current Chile boss Jorge Sampaoli - but so far Napoli have been left to rue an £11.5million investment that has earned them a return of just three goals in 26 appearances. "I was not happy in Italy," said Vargas upon securing his move to Brazil. "I didn't feel good on my debut and played badly, then I lost my confidence and was never able to play consistently."
The striker's form has gradually improved since joining Gremio and Chile's trip to Wembley affords Vargas the chance to reaffirm his quality to a European audience. A speedy forward who likes to cut in from the wings, Vargas has notched 10 strikes in 22 caps for his country including five in World Cup qualifying. With burly forward Humberto Suazo left out of Chile's latest squad having failed to score for La Roja since 2011, Vargas remains in the driving seat to lead the line at the World Cup and he will be looking to make the most of his opportunity to impress on Friday.
One of the few household names in Chile's squad and the man responsible for carrying the torch against England following Arturo Vidal's late withdrawal through injury. Sanchez is quite simply a wonderful footballer, possessing pace to burn, a neat drop of the shoulder to evade defenders and the crucial desire to take on his opponent. In truth, he is perhaps better suited to Chile's system than Barcelona's, where his speed can be utilised on the counter-attack to break behind the opposition defence. Sanchez struggled in his second season at Barcelona last year, but he has shown encouraging signs of improvement under new manager Tata Martino, grabbing the winner in the 2-1 Clasico victory over Real Madrid and seven goals in total. If England are to overcome Chile, then Sanchez is the man they will need stop.
A delightful, somewhat anachronistic player, similar to Juan Roman Riquelme, only with more dynamism. Now 30, the Venezuelan-born Valdivia has enjoyed a varied career, spending time in Chile, Spain, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates before settling at Brazilian club Palmeiras since 2010. The talented playmaker has been a key member of Chile's squad over the past six years, but his chequered international career has also been marked by several scandals, the most recent of which was the 2011 'El Bautizazo' controversy when several players attended the baptism of Validivia's daughter and turned up late to training after drinking heavily. The fall-out of that incident saw Valdivia ostracized from national team duty until September 2013 when he started a 3-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Venezuela in Santiago. As long as none of his children were baptized on Thursday, it can be expected that Valdivia will pull the strings behind Vargas in Chile's attack.
It's fair to say that Isla's £8million move to Juventus in 2012 hasn't exactly gone to plan so far. The former Udinese full-back made just 16 appearances in his first season for the Old Lady and was forced to play second fiddle to Stephan Lichtsteiner as Antonio Conte's side romped to a second successive Scudetto victory. The 25-year-old has recently shown that he can usurp his rival for the right-back role, however, and he has remained an integral part of the Chile setup following his debut under Marcelo Bielsa in 2007. Isla will take every opportunity to attack down the wing and create two-v-one situations with Alexis Sanchez and his record of 17 assists in his final three years at Udinese point to a defender who loves to get forward. Whoever is tasked with providing protection to Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines on Friday will need to be wary of Isla's marauding runs.
The Chile captain is selected in this list not because of his impressive performances to help Real Sociedad reach the Champions League last season, but rather for his propensity to make glaring errors. Although Bravo has clocked up 76 international caps and 200-odd appearances for La Real - recently saving a Robin van Persie penalty in the 0-0 draw with Manchester United - his displays between the sticks for both club and country have drawn criticism on occasion. Bravo's costly fumble in Chile's Copa America quarter-final against Venezuela in 2011 saw La Roja crash out of the tournament prematurely, while he was also left red-faced following a mistake against Spain in Chile's 2-1 defeat at the 2010 World Cup. The 30-year-old is definitely a weak spot for England to target and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the set-piece threat of Roy Hodgson's side.
A version of this article originally appeared on Football365