England are heading to Amsterdam for their first fixture of 2018. With the World Cup less than 100 days away the main object of the exercise is for players to cement their place in the World Cup squad and the 11 to play Tunisia in the World Cup opener.
Who has the most to gain?
Pretty obviously the 4 uncapped players need to impress the manager and they have 2 games and a handful of training sessions to make their case. My suspicion is most of the new boys are more likely to get their chance against Italy at Wembley next Monday but one of Alfie Mawson or James Tarkowski will likely start against Holland.
Elsewhere Joe Hart needs a good game after a torrid season at West Ham and seems likely to start, particularly given the inexperienced defence England are likely to field. Adam Lallana and Danny Rose have struggled for game time since returning from long-term injury and need to show some form.
Jack Wilshere is finally back from the international wilderness and needs a performance to secure his place in Southgate’s plans- with England’s well documented midfield struggles the scene is perfectly set for Wilshere but he must deliver.
Upfront Harry Kane’s enforced absence opens up the striker role with surprise call up Danny Welbeck needing to impress after a season on the fringes at Arsenal.
Eric Dier has no such worries in terms of making the squad but is rumoured to be likely played in the back 3 for the first time rather than in midfield- how he fares will impact both his positioning and the balance of the prospective squad.
And the current state of play for Holland?
It’s time to start over with Ronald Koeman taking charge for the first time, his appointment was made after Holland’s failure to qualify for the World Cup. Superstars Arjen Robben & Wesley Schneider have retired and the squad is a long way short of the great Oranje sides of the past.
Lazio’s Stefan De Vrij and £75 million Virgil Van Dijk form a strong defensive pair to build from with Roma playmaker Kevin Strootman & Liverpool’s Giorgio Wijnaldum in midfield. Upfront Memphis Depay is their most gifted attacker and is now rehabbing his career at Lyon after his disastrous stint at Old Trafford whilst the game could also see a debut for Ajax 18-year-old Justin Kluivert; son of the legendary Patrik Kluivert and a player being tracked by many of Europe’s top clubs.
The last time England beat Holland Gareth Southgate was in the team- England’s famous 4-1 win at Euro 96.
Ronald Koeman will also have fond memories of playing England at Euro ’88 and the controversial World Cup qualifier in 1993 where he escaped a red card offence and went on to score the decisive free kick that sent Holland to the USA and Graham Taylor to the Lancaster Gate exit door.
Surprisingly that Euro ’96 encounter was the last competitive fixture between the 2 nations and the ensuing 7 friendlies have produced 4 draws and 3 wins in London for the Dutch. The last clash in Holland was again at the Amsterdam Arena and ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Jermaine Defoe scoring twice.
Both managers are cautious tacticians so I’m not expecting fireworks, if England score first they’ll be able to play their counter attacking game utilising their pacey front players, Southgate has yet to win a friendly from 5 attempts and I think he’ll break his duck here. Ultimately there’ll never be a better time to play Holland.
Holland 1-2 England