Andros Townsend might have ruined it for every other England newcomer with that excellent performance and goal on his debut against Montenegro last month. Unfortunately now, it seems, everyone has to hit the ground running when they put on the England shirt for the first time.

Judging by some of the reaction to his performance in Friday's 2-0 defeat by Chile, a match in which an experimental England were thoroughly outplayed by a proper, settled side, Jay Rodriguez could be forgiven for thinking he was supposed to have scored a hat-trick, made two goals and saved a penalty for good measure.

It is true that Rodriguez was poor against Chile, unable to affect the game or get into positions where his pace and directness could be applied usefully, and it also may turn out that he is not good enough to have any real future for England. Maybe. He has probably played himself out of contention for a World Cup spot too, which is the harsh reality of international football, where the lack of games means that managers are forced to make snap judgments.

Roy Hodgson will have been more impressed with Rodriguez's Southampton team-mate, Adam Lallana, who was bright in parts, yet surely it is too early to say with any certainty that he is out of his depth after 57 minutes at this level, even if that is what our eyes told us on Friday night. Danny Welbeck, whose injury gave Rodriguez a chance on the left of England's attack, will not be too worried about losing his place in the squad when the important matches arrive.

Yet it is grossly unfair to write off Rodriguez, or anyone who finds themself in a similar position in the future. Rodriguez was playing in the Championship for Burnley until joining Southampton last season, so it is entirely understandable that he should appear uncomfortable when playing at Wembley for the first time, with new team-mates and against the kind of opposition he will not have faced before.

With their intense pressing high up the pitch, Chile did to England what Southampton usually do to their opponents in the Premier League, the effect of which meant that the hosts' midfield was rarely able to get Rodriguez into the game. Then, when he did receive the ball, usually in tight areas in his own half, he looked too nervous to do anything productive. What matters now is that Rodriguez learns and is allowed to learn from it. If he does, then he will develop.

Those butterflies never affected Townsend against Montenegro or Poland last month – or a 17-year-old Wayne Rooney on his debut against Australia in 2003 – but, really, it is ridiculous to expect everyone to take like a duck to water. Some need the armbands for a while.

We do not expect players to slot seamlessly into a side when they join a new club, but pragmatism is in short supply when it comes to England. No one gets banned from driving for stalling the car in their first lesson. Play badly for England though and, well, probably best not to show your face for a few months.

The effect of this short-sighted attitude is that we create the fear that Fabio Capello referenced when he became England's manager early in 2008. The atmosphere at Wembley never feels far from bubbling over into toxicity and the team were booed off after losing to Chile, one month after securing qualification for the World Cup.

Apparently the feelgood factor created by those two impressive wins over Montenegro and Poland has been extinguished. The first question put to Frank Lampard, England's captain for the evening, was whether Chile had given Hodgson's side a reality check. Lampard dismissed that and he was right.

Chile are a better team and played in a style that discomforts England. Losing to them in friendly is not a disgrace, especially when a number of important forward players were missing, and does not really justify the self-loathing predictions for how England will fare at the World Cup. What are people expecting anyway? England are not going to win it and they are not going to get close to winning it, but we already knew that anyway. Some perspective, please.

The sooner people come to terms with that, the more they'll enjoy the tournament and when you expect nothing, you're more likely to be pleasantly surprised.

Instead this World Cup looks like more of a chance for improvement in the long term. There are young players who should benefit from the experience of tournament football, whether it is positive or negative, and there are also a highly promising group of youngsters – Ravel Morrison, Ross Barkley, Luke Shaw, Wilfried Zaha, Saido Berahino and others – poised to come through.

It would be nice if they were allowed to develop at their own pace rather than straining to meet our ludicrous expectations.