Friendly football fixtures between Holland and England are seldom dull and Wednesday’s match will probably be no exception. The numbers three and five on FIFA’s world rankings are keen to meet each other for an experimental match and both sides are acutely aware that there’s quite some experimenting to do.
By Andy Sennitt and Theo Tamis
The two countries are well-matched, as a quick glance at the statistics reveals. Out of the 18 times they’ve faced each other, the Netherlands has won four, lost five and drawn nine. With an average of 2.6 goals scored, most of their clashes with England were quite spectacular.
Take the last encounter three years ago. It was a memorable one for the Three Lions, who managed to come back from 2-0 down to seal a draw thanks to two late goals from substitute Jermain Defoe. The return fixture for that match, arranged for last August, was called off at the very last minute due to serious rioting in London.
Keen to play England
The Dutch players, who were about to board their flight when the decision was taken, expressed their disappointment at the time even though they said they could understand why the match had to be postponed.
About half the regular Holland team play in the Premier League and they were obviously keen to take on their teammates. Besides, the men in orange were looking forward to their first visit to the new 90,000-seater Wembley Stadium, the renovated “cathedral of football”, as Pele once dubbed it. And at the height of the summer holidays, the Dutch were sure to be backed in large numbers by their colourful fans.
Different ball game
Of course, this time again, there will be a few thousand supporters making the relatively short journey across from the Netherlands. But they’re likely to witness a different kind of game than they did in August, when the qualifying campaign for this summer’s Euro 2012 was still in full swing. Now, for both sides, Wednesday’s friendly will be the last major test ahead of final preparations for the tournament in Ukraine and Poland, due to start on 8 June.
Holland will be trotting onto the pitch in their new all-black away outfit
, hoping that it will herald a reversal of fortunes after their poor showing in the previous three matches. Two shock defeats, at the hands of Sweden
, and a disappointing draw against Switzerland
ended an impressive winning run for the Dutch and took them down from a brief spell at the top of the FIFA World rankings.
The downturn was blamed on the absence of key players due to injury, but some pundits spotted a few fundamental flaws in the Dutch machinery, particularly in the defence lines. The selection for Wednesday’s match suggests that Netherlands manager Bert van Marwijk may seek to test some new players, but he has picked no new defenders for his squad. With some leading players currently out of form, he’s expected to make several substitutions.
England face challenges of quite a different nature. The side have lost both their captain and their coach in recent weeks. Former captain John Terry has been charged with making a racist remark - which he strongly denies - against Anton Ferdinand of QPR during a Premiership match.
The court agreed to postpone the case until after Euro 2012 at the request of his club, Chelsea. But the FA decided that Terry should be suspended from the England captaincy, and announced their decision without consulting or informing coach Fabio Capello.
An angry Capello subsequently gave an interview to Italian TV and said he disagreed with the decision. He was called to FA headquarters where he made it clear that he would not withdraw his comments, and offered to resign on a point of principle. The FA accepted his resignation.
Terry dilemma solved
The strong favourite for the job is Harry Redknapp, manager of Tottenham Hotspur. But he insists on staying with Spurs till the end of the season, so Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce will manage the team against Holland. A potentially difficult decision for Pearce – whether to pick John Terry in central defence alongside Anton Ferdinand's elder brother Rio – was averted when Terry had a knee operation last week, thus becoming unavailable.
As it happens, Rio Ferdinand was not selected either, as Pearce has chosen to drop several senior players in favour of some new blood. He has also selected Manchester City full-back Micah Richards, who was only picked once by Capello during his four years in charge, much to the bemusement of many England fans. For England, the only certainty to start seems to be in goal, where Joe Hart is enjoying a great season at Manchester City, further enhancing his status as England's number one.
So on Wednesday night we’ll see a new-look Holland side take on a rejuvenated England. With a new outfit, a new line-up and possibly some experiments in formation and playing style, this match will be one to watch.
24-man Holland squad:
Tim Krul (Newcastle United)
Maarten Stekelenburg (AS Roma)
Michel Vorm (Swansea City)
Khalid Boulahrouz (VfB Stuttgart)
Jeffrey Bruma (HSV)
Urby Emanuelson (AC Milan),
John Heitinga (Everton)
Joris Mathijsen (Malaga)
Erik Pieters (PSV)
Ron Vlaar (Feyenoord)
Mark van Bommel (AC Milan)
Nigel de Jong (Manchester City)
Stijn Schaars (Sporting)
Wesley Sneijder (Inter)
Kevin Strootman (FC Utrecht)
Rafael van der Vaart (Tottenham Hotspur)
Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV)
Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Schalke 04)
Ola John (FC Twente)
Luuk de Jong (FC Twente)
Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool)
Luciano Narsingh (sc Heerenveen)
Robin van Persie (Arsenal)
Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)
25-man England squad:
Scott Carson (Bursaspor)
Robert Green (West Ham United)
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
Leighton Baines (Everton)
Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
Phil Jones (Manchester United)
Micah Richards (Manchester City)
Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Gareth Barry (Manchester City)
Tom Cleverley (Manchester United)
Stewart Downing (Liverpool)
Adam Johnson (Manchester City)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
James Milner (Manchester City)
Scott Parker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Ashley Young (Manchester United)
Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
Darren Bent (Aston Villa)
Fraizer Campbell (Sunderland)
Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)