Fabio Capello’s England will get their Euro 2012 preparations up and running when they take on old rivals Holland in an international friendly at Wembley on February 29.
The match will be the first gathering of the Three Lions hopefuls in 2012 and an opportunity for some of the Premier League’s biggest stars to stake their claim for a place in the squad for the European Championship which will take place in June.
England’s qualifying campaign was once again impressive and as ever they hold a prominent position in the betting for the tournament which they will be seeking to win for the first time in their history.
International friendlies are often frowned upon by top club managers however this particular encounter will be crucial as a settled, well gelled starting eleven still has to be found.
Capello has been criticised for his overuse of players and frequent rotation between friendlies and qualifiers – a factor which many believe contributed to England’s shocking demise at the 2010 World Cup.
The match obviously arrives during a pivotal stage in the domestic season however England and Holland’s close proximity makes the clash viable to both nations who are likely to approach matters extremely seriously.
Holland reached the final of the 2010 World Cup and their squad foundations are unsurprisingly more stable than England’s.
Star striker Robin Van Persie, who has taken the Premier League by storm, is likely to lead the line for the Dutch with Liverpool’s cult hero Dirk Kuyt supporting in behind.
Holland are a tough, physical outfit and they will be taken very seriously by the rest of Europe this year as they also have the ability to play fluent, effective football to give them a well-rounded profile.
It will be a good work out for both yardstick nations who will know exactly what they need to improve upon ahead of the finals, but it could be Capello who still has the most sorting out to do.
His centre-back partnership is undoubtedly the biggest talking point amongst pundits and supporters and it remains to be seen whether veterans John Terry and Rio Ferdinand can still cut it for the national team.
The same also applies for the likes of Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard who will be adamant on holding down their position in the side for one last tilt at international glory.
Interestingly, the last four meetings between England and Holland have ended as draws and that trend may continue, as on paper, things look very evenly matched.
If anything, Holland probably hold a slight advantage in terms of overall quality however the buzz of a Wembley crowd should do enough to compensate and drive England on to compete well in their first assignment of 2012.
23/10 is available about another stalemate and that looks the way to go as neither team is likely to excel fully at such an early stage of the year in terms of the international calendar.
Jermaine Defoe rescued England in the last meeting between the two sides and his involvement, along with Wayne Rooney, will be vital as Holland look more than capable of netting down the other end of the field as England try and secure a regular, established back line.
This is nothing more than a stepping stone for both nations – nevertheless it should not fully deter punters as it will still be a competitive spectacle with a lot at stake in regards to player selection in the future.
© Frixo 2013