England face depleted Dutchmen

LONDON. — Invigorated by Saturday’s thrilling 3-2 friendly win over world soccer champions Germany, England tackle the Netherlands tonight seeking to sustain the feel-good factor ahead of the European Championship. Goals from Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Eric Dier saw an England team inspired by Dele Alli come from 2-0 down to beat Germany and while manager Roy Hodgson was quick to downplay the result’s importance, there was no disguising the ebullience of his youthful team’s display.

Tonight’s game is Hodgson’s last chance to experiment before he announces his squad for Euro 2016 on May 12 and with Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott also candidates for attacking roles — not forgetting injured duo Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling — he has plenty of options.

“I am sure he wants that,” said Tottenham Hotspur striker Kane, who took his international tally to four goals in nine appearances. “He wants everyone on top form and applying themselves well. You want the best players to be on form come the Euros.

“I am sure it is a problem he enjoys having. All we can do is keep doing what we are doing, to keep playing, as we have great belief.

“Wayne and Raheem are great players and I am sure they will be back in the squad. Everyone is fighting for places and it is what this country needs. It will only make us better players.”

Hodgson always intended to make wholesale changes for the encounter with Holland, who have not qualified for Euro 2016, and injuries have already forced his hand.

Fraser Forster is expected to start in goal, having come on as a substitute for Jack Butland in Berlin after the Stoke City goalkeeper — himself deputising for the injured Joe Hart — fractured his ankle.

Vardy will hope to start after scoring his first international goal with a brilliant back-heeled equaliser against Germany and his Leicester City team-mate Danny Drinkwater should win his first cap as a starter in central midfield.

Fit-again Liverpool striker Sturridge is also in contention for a place in the starting XI, having missed the entirety of England’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a succession of injuries.

Everton pair John Stones and Phil Jagielka, meanwhile, could be given a chance to demonstrate that they can plug the defensive holes that almost proved England’s undoing at the Olympiastadion.

The match will feature a tribute to late Dutch great Johan Cruyff in the 14th minute — a nod to his iconic shirt number — with an image of the former Ajax and Barcelona star displayed on Wembley’s big screens, but play will not stop as it did during Holland’s 3-2 loss to France on Friday.

The original Wembley held special meaning for Cruyff, for it was there that he won the first of his three European Cups with Ajax as a player in 1971 and led Barcelona to their first European crown as manager in 1992. — AFP.

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