England face the Netherlands in an international friendly on Friday night that will give Gareth Southgate the opportunity to experiment and tinker with his side ahead of the World Cup in Russia this summer.
But the Three Lions will understand the importance of a result against decent opposition too, building their confidence as a collective for a tournament that will be deemed a success if they reach the latter knockout stages.
So, can history tell us anything about what to expect on Friday at the Amsterdam Arena? Here’s a look at the history of this international clash…
There really isn’t a great deal to choose between both countries from their 20 meetings thus far, separated by just one win and three goals with Oranje and the Three Lions both keeping six clean sheets and never incurring a single red card – perhaps we could see a first on Friday night.
Despite being ranked higher than the Netherlands in the current FIFA rankings though, England have actually beaten their coming opponents just once since 1982 – the famous 4-1 win at Euro 1996. The Netherlands, meanwhile, have claimed five of their six victories since then, including a 2-1 win in a Wembley friendly almost exactly two years ago.
Aside from Tommy Lawton who scored four goals against the Netherlands in a single game way back in 1946, Oranje legend Marco van Basten has netted the most times in this fixture – grabbing a stunning hat-trick back in 1988. Bryan Robson did his best to keep the Three Lions in the tie, but van Basten demonstrated his lethal prowess by opening the scoring with a piece of incredible individual skill – flicking the ball beyond a defender before rifling home – and then completed his hat-trick in the second half with a typically clinical finish and a volley at a corner.
The most any other England player has scored in this fixture is two goals, a tally Teddy Sheringham, Alan Shearer and Jermain Defoe all share.
It’s long forgotten that the win and the healthy scoreline was largely irrelevant as the Three Lions needed only a draw to progress from the group stages, but that should nonetheless take away from what was probably the best single performance England have produced at a major tournament since lifting the World Cup more than half a century ago as a potent strike-force of Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham both bagged braces.
Shearer converted a penalty won by Paul Ince, who tricked the ball around Danny Blind, and then added to his haul with England’s third when some excellent work from Paul Gascoigne, Steve McManaman and Sheringham resulted in a square ball to the Newcastle icon just a few yards out from goal.
Sheringham, meanwhile, headed home a corner and then reacted fastest when Darren Anderton’s shot was parried into the centre of the penalty area. A young Patrick Kluivert grabbed a late consolation, but at that point England’s players were already in celebration mode.