In the first round of international friendlies of 2018, Gareth Southgate’s England travel to face Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands in what promises to be an intriguing matchup in the Dutch capital between two teams that have endured opposite fortunes in recent months.
The Dutch head into the fixture off the back of following their disastrous 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign up with friendly victory over Romania last November, meanwhile, the Three Lions most recently drew with Brazil on the same evening, they are the firm favourites for this one.
The clash will be played out this evening (Friday 23 March 2018) with a kick-off time of 7:45 PM GMT and 8:45 PM local time, with live and free television coverage being provided by ITV in the United Kingdom.
You can also listen to live radio commentary from the Netherlands on both BBC Radio 5 Live and TalkSport, but if you don’t have access to a TV or radio over the weekend, you can stick with us right here at ByFarTheGreatestTeam for all your reaction to the encounter.
The visit of the English will be hosted at Holland’s national stadium of the Johan Cruyff Arena, formerly known as the Amsterdam ArenA, and having its name changed in 2017 to honour the late great Dutch footballing legend.
The stadium was opened in 1996 and for football matches has a capacity of just over 54,000, being the domestic home of AFC Ajax and housed some of the most famous musical acts in the world as a world-class concert host, as well as other sports such as American football and kick-boxing.
Aside from Ajax and the nation, the ArenA also played host to the 1998 UEFA Champions League final and 2013 UEFA Europa League final, not to mention matches at the 2000 European Championships and games to come at EURO 2020.
Tonight will spell the third time that Southgate’s men have visited the venue, drawing all three of those matches, the most recent of them coming in August 2009 when a Jermain Defoe brace cancelled out Dirk Kuyt and Rafael van der Vaart strikes in a 2-2 stalemate.
Home manager Koeman decided to experiment with his first International squad in charge of his home country by calling up five stars for the first time, they include an 18-year-old Justin Kluivert, who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of father Patrick.
Three from domestic side AZ Alkmaar are also included, Marco Bizot, Guus Til and Wout Weghorst, along with Serie A man Hans Hateboer, Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk will have the captain’s armband against many of his teammates.
Whereas, visiting boss Southgate, in addition, went with some new blood when picking his penultimate squad before the summer’s World Cup, giving goalkeeper Nick Pope and centre-backs Alfie Mawson and James Tarkowski first senior calls.
However, he has been plagued by an injury concern with Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere having to pull out of the squad, Jordan Henderson was announced as captain in Harry Kane’s absence earlier in the week, his opposite number will be a Reds comrade, there is a choice of four to start between the sticks.
The senior national teams of the Netherlands and England have met before on 32 occasions in competitive and friendly action in an International fixture that has been being played since all the way back in the year of 1907.
Today’s visitors have the slight edge on the overall record, reigning supreme 13 times to the Dutch’s nine, the spoils have been shared ten times, including in four of the last six meetings of these two.
While they do have the statistical edge, it is worth noting that the last time England beat Holland came in the quarter-finals of the 1996 European Championships on home soil, when they triumphed 4-1, having no joy whatsoever since.
The last time that the pairing did battle was two years ago in March 2016, Netherlands denting England’s EURO 2016 preparations on that day by shocking Wembley for the second time in succession, replying to a Jamie Vardy opener with winners from Vincent Janssen and Swansea City man Luciano Narsingh.
The Dutch national team are one of the most iconic, successive and recognisable figures that the International game has ever seen, stemming from their formation in the early 20th century.
In terms of trophies, many of their legendary teams fell at the final hurdle as evidenced by their three runners-up medals at the FIFA World Cup, although they do have a European Championship under their belt, coming at the 1988 tournament.
However, since second and thirds at the WC in 2010 and 2014, the team’s form has declined rapidly, and they have failed to qualify for the past two major tournaments, France 2016 and Russia 2018, their FIFA World ranking falling to 36 last summer having been 1 just six years previously.
But, under Barcelona legend and most recently Southampton and Everton manager Koeman, the future looks brighter for Holland, having seen their rank rise 15 places since the low of August 2017, the fallen giant’s eyes will be firmly fixed on making it to the revolutionary EUROs in 2020.
The English national team was founded in 1870 and has one of the richest histories in the International game, one of the most colourful too as there had rarely been a dull moment in the existence of the Three Lions.
Their finest hour surely arrived in 1966, when famous captain Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy, the English winning the World Cup at Wembley under the guidance of Sir Alf Ramsey, it’s the nation’s only major honour to date.
Since then, they have also been nearly-men on several occasions, failing to make it to the odd tournament and often bowing out at the first knockout stage, though in the summer, an improvement would be making it out of the group, something they failed to do at Brazil 2014.
Having risen as high as 3 in 2012, England’s FIFA World Raking is currently a respectful 16, five above their Friday night opponents, the main objective for them going forward will be stability, current boss Southgate is their third in under two years.
Who Is Officiating?
An all-Spanish officiating team will be in charge of the friendly encounter from Referee Jesus Gil Manzano, to Assistant Referees Angel Nevado Rodríguez and Juan Yuste Jimenez, and Fourth Official Carlos del Cerro Grande, Video Assistant Referee, or VAR for short, will not be in use in Amsterdam.
So, now that the Johan Cruyff Arena scene has been well and truly set for an exciting night of International football under the lights, can the hosts keep up their impressive unbeaten run against the visitors?
Or, will Southgate’s men get the better of Koeman’s, hence starting a World Cup year in style? Think you know? Be sure to head over to @ByFarBlog on Twitter to send us your late score predictions and join in with the pre-match discussion throughout Friday.