By 90Min
March 22, 2018

England face the Netherlands at the Amsterdam Arena on Friday night, in the first of four friendly matches to be played by the Three Lions before they fly out to Russia.

Less than three months before England's first match of the World Cup in June, manager Gareth Southgate still faces a number of selection dilemmas, not least in goal and central defense.

Meanwhile, Ronald Koeman's Oranje will be hoping for a morale boosting performance and result, after failing to qualify for two successive tournaments for the first time since the 1980s.

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England have not lost a competitive match under Gareth Southgate, with their only defeats of his reign coming in friendlies away to Germany and France last year. However, some of the Three Lions' recent performances have been heavily criticized, not least their fortunate World Cup qualifying victory over Slovenia last autumn.

Nevertheless, goalless draws against Germany and Brazil in November were widely hailed as evidence of improvements, especially in defense.

Despite their failure to qualify for the World Cup, the Netherlands have enjoyed an encouraging run of form. After a 4-0 thrashing by France in last year's FIFA World Cup qualifier, which all but ended their hopes of qualification, the Dutch have put together a five match winning streak, including an impressive 3-0 victory away to Romania.

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Gareth Southgate has called up four uncapped players: goalkeeper Nick Pope, central defenders James Tarkowski and Alfie Mawson, and midfielder Lewis Cook. Pope and Tarkowski have both played key roles in Burnley's surprise ascent to seventh place in the Premier League, while Swansea's Mawson and Bournemouth's Cook have both excelled for their struggling sides.

Their inclusion in the squad seems to reflect Southgate's lack of trust in certain more established internationals, such as defenders Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling, both omitted despite having 89 caps between them. The England manager may see Friday's match as an opportunity to experiment with Eric Dier as one of three center backs in his preferred 3-4-3 formation.

At the other end of the pitch, England's talisman Harry Kane is absent through injury, which may present an opportunity for Leicester's Jamie Vardy to lead the line. Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck is the highest international scorer in the squad, with 15 goals in 36 caps.

In the absence of established stars such as Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder, both of whom have retired from international football, Netherlands manager Ronald Koeman has called up five uncapped players, including Ajax winger Justin Kluivert, son of legendary Dutch striker Patrick. Kluivert's 18-year-old club mate, highly rated central defender Matthijs de Ligt, is also in the Oranje's squad.

Koeman is set to name a new national team captain, with Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk among the front runners for the role.

Potential Netherlands Starting Lineup: Bizot; van Aanholt, van Dijk, de Ligt, Hateboer; Strootman, de Roon, Til; Kluivert, Weghorst, Berghuis.

Potential England Starting Lineup: Pickford; Maguire, Stones, Dier; Young, Henderson, Wilshere, Walker; Rashford, Vardy, Sterling.


Even against an inexperienced and experimental Dutch side, an England victory seems unlikely in the absence of Harry Kane. Neither England nor the Netherlands have a strong defensive record, while both sides boast exciting attacking talent, so it seems equally unlikely either side will keep a clean sheet.

England's capacity for calamitous errors at the back, the Netherlands' home advantage and England's dismal record against the Dutch - no wins, four draws and three defeats since the famous 4-1 win at the 1996 European Championships - make the Oranje likelier victors than the Three Lions. Nevertheless, a score draw seems the most probable outcome.

Prediction: Netherlands 1-1 England

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