19:45 GMT, Friday 23rd March, Amsterdam ArenA (Amsterdam, Holland)
Euro 1996, Wembley, Sheringham, Shearer and the Sun shining, England thumping of the Netherlands team 4-0 as they coasted into the quarterfinals against Spain, setting up a potential final-four clash against Germany, remains one of the nation’s most cherished footballing memories. But apart from that thrashing of the Dutch, it becomes difficult to name any classic matches between the two nations, and on their current form, a classic might be needed to remember this game between two teams lacking world class quality.
Both come into this friendly low on morale. England, although easily securing a spot in Russia (and being given a favourable draw in the group stage), carry a mood around their Harry Kane-less camp that appears downbeat. No one truly expects this team to do anything special later this summer; the goal keeper issue is currently providing the biggest headache to Southgate, and the hysteria caused by Kane’s injury shows just how reliant the team are on the frontman. They will though look to pick up a confident-boosting win against the Netherlands, ahead of another game next week against another team failing to reach Russia in the form of Italy, and Southgate will enjoy working with the young, talented players such as Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Alfie Mawson, many of whom he coached in his role as U21 England manager.
Their opponents find themselves in an even worse position as the Dutch team try to pick themselves up from their disappointing failure to reach the World Cup. Apart from Liverpool superstars Virgil van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum, and in-form striker Memphis Depay, it becomes a struggle to name many other players who could turn up for the Netherlands team. Ronald Koeman in his first match in charge will also want to start out strongly, but having been given a four and half year contract he can expect patience and time as he seeks to bring his nation back to their glory days of the 70s and 80s.
Last time out
Romania 0-3 Netherlands (international friendly)
Three ex-Premier League flops all scored for the Dutch in Dick Advocaat’s last game as Holland manager as they secured a comfortable 3-0 victory against fellow European side Romania. The first half lacked any goals or major chances, but Depay, formerly of Manchester United and now enjoying a stellar season with Lyon, opened the scoring in Bucharest in the 47th minute.
A Ryan Babel volley nine minutes later showed glimpses of the huge potential he failed to reach in his time at Liverpool as the Dutchman scored his first international goal in almost ten years. A routine win was secured in the 81st minute as substitute and ex-Newcastle striker Luuk de Jong headed home his fourth international goal.
England 0-0 Brazil (international friendly)
Does anyone remember this match? Don't worry, you’re not alone. A dull affair back in mid-November between this two international heavyweights was a real let-down, especially with Neymar in town at Wembley. A young England side performed ‘bravely’ according to Southgate, toiling against the five-time world champions, who enjoyed the lion share of the ball and shots.
Joe Gomez of Liverpool stood out and performed admirably in defence against the likes of Neymar, Coutinho and Paulinho, not looking out of place once as fellow club teammate Dominic Solanke almost even scored a winner in stoppage time, only to mis-control at the far post. A classic it most certainly wasn’t.
Matchup to watch
Jamie Vardy (England) vs Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)
Since becoming Liverpool’s record signing in January, van Dijk has bought a calming sense to a frantic backline, allowing Liverpool’s famed front three to roam wild without a care in the world. As it stands, the £75 million centre back looks to be a bargain, but his levels of performances for the national team have always dipped compared to his club form, and coming up against an in-form Vardy with pace to burn should provide him with a huge challenge.
Keys to the game
Can this England team win without Harry Kane?
You could feel the nation’s angst when Kane went down injured against AFC Bournemouth two weeks ago, yet the worries were calmed when it was made known he would be fully fit and hopefully firing again by the time the World Cup comes knocking in mid-June.
These friendlies do, however, give this England team the chance to learn to play without the Spurs superstar, and whilst his aptitude for scoring will be sorely missed, Southgate’s preferred formation of a 3-4-3 with the out-and-out pace of Jamie Vardy, Sterling and Dele Alli up front might actually work to the Lions’ advantage.
Can Koeman rebuild this Dutch team?
The Netherlands must hope two wrongs do actually make a right for once as failed Everton manager Ronald Koeman takes over as manager of his beloved country, a team in dire straits after failing to qualify for their second major tournament in a row.
With 78 caps and the Euro 1988 trophy to boot, Koeman’s legend status has long been confirmed for the Netherlands, yet his stock as a coach has taken a falling since leaving Southampton and his fractious relationship with many of his Everton players has led to rumours of a manager incapable of controlling his dressing room.
His recent interviews though suggest he’s got his energy and love for the game back, and taking over a team famous for their truly great footballers and teams, the whole world will surely want him to succeed in bringing the country that gave us Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit and 'total football' back to its former glories.
Netherlands 1-2 England
Although this England side are lacking their main goal scorer and talisman in Kane, an attacking formation with Vardy and Sterling providing the danger upfront should see them have enough to beat an extremely poor Dutch side.
Can this England team win the World Cup in Russia? Let us know in the comments section below.