With the International break coming into play this week, England will truly see if they can compete with Europe’s elite. The Three Lions first travel to Berlin to face World Champions Germany on Saturday, then back at Wembley to take on The Netherlands.
Preparation for the European Championships in France this summer have already begun since qualification was finished last October, having travelled to Alicante to face Spain and played host to France one month later. The Spanish game brought the picture back to reality, with a comfortable 2-0 victory for La Roja. Having breezed through qualifying, England’s run of 14 straight games unbeaten was put to an end, but did get back to winning ways against the Les Bleus four days later with a 2-0 win, albeit under obvious circumstances following the events prior in the French capital.
March the 26th will be the ultimate test for England, coming up against Die Mannschaft, who are seen to be favourites to lift the trophy in July. The last meeting between the two was back in late 2013, with the Germans coming out on top. Times have changed since then, with England’s squad consisting of new players to the scene, with the likes of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy included in the national team. This new-look England team will be without captain Wayne Rooney for these two fixtures, who is out until May due to injury. This could be seen as a positive, giving Roy Hodgson the chance to rotate with his squad. However, he will be without his number one keeper Joe Hart and winger Raheem Sterling as they both suffered injuries for Manchester City in their defeat against rivals United on Sunday, that will keep them out for about four weeks.
The four-time World cup winners will more than likely have a blend of what has been seen at previous tournaments, with a mix of youth and experience. Coach Joachim Loew has a great amount of players to choose from, with players such as Mario Goetze and Marco Reus developing well. The more experienced side of the team will be a huge plus for the youngsters, as captain Bastian Schweinsteiger fits this category. Unlike the visitors, Germany had a bruising time during their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, with losses at the hands of Poland and the Republic of Ireland, but still managed to top their group.
The hosts will be favourite for this encounter with a squad full of talent in every position. Although the result doesn’t matter, games like this don’t come around to often, so the England players should take this opportunity to full effect and aim to produce a positive display on Saturday.
Prediction: Germany 3-1 England
Following this game, England travel back home to face The Netherlands three days later at Wembley. Although the Dutch didn’t qualify for France, they should not be underestimated, having finished third at the World Cup in Brazil two years ago. Despite this achievement on the World stage, in Europe they have greatly under performed. Failing to get out of their group at the last European Championships in Poland and Ukraine four years ago without a single point, and not being able to even qualify this time around, the Oranje could be placed in the same boat as England in the context of a rebuilding stage.
With veterans such as Arjen Robben, who produced an excellent display the last time these two met in a 3-2 away win at Wembley in 2012, and Wesley Sneijder in the side, The Netherlands should definitely not be taken for granted. The likes of Manchester United’s Memphis Depay and Daley Blind could also feature, having grown into the staring eleven since the World Cup. Managers have been coming and going since Brazil 2014, with Louis van Gaal in charge at United and Guus Hiddink departing to take place of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Danny Blind is now placed as the head coach for his national side, who is father of United’s Daley Blind. He will be looking to help in this rebuilding project, having only been there since last year.
I would suspect that both coaches will go with a different line up to that of the first friendlies in this International break, with England having played the World Champions just three days before hand. The Dutch do have an extra day to prepare, with them set to play France in Amsterdam four days before their clash with England. I believe that this match up will be much closer than the game in Berlin, but I feel as though England may have the advantage coming into it having the more experienced manager.
Prediction: England 2-1 Netherlands
Written by Joe Dutton
Sources: Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sky Sports, World Soccer Talk, Mirror