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Tuesday, 11 December, 2018

Tight affair likely as England prepare for World Cup

Gareth Southgate's side face Holland in Amsterdam

England forward Marcus Rashford
1 of 1

International friendly
ITV, 7.45pm Friday

England's World Cup preparations step up a notch with a trip to Holland and it may be a tight international friendly in Amsterdam.

The Dutch won't be in Russia this summer, but they are one of the best sides to miss out on the World Cup and should provide a stern test in Ronald Koeman's first match in charge of the Oranje.

Koeman's debut should mean Holland are in a competitive mode and the same is true for England as players attempt to impress Gareth Southgate with the World Cup just around the corner.

However, neither team looks particularly strong in the final third with Holland coming to terms with key retirements and England minus the services of star man Harry Kane, so under 2.5 goals could be best.

English eyes will be on the back three, a formation Southgate seems determined to use in the World Cup as he searches for a balanced side which won't lose shape when the Three Lions are counter-attacked.

Utility man Eric Dier could slip into the defence alongside John Stones and Harry Maguire, with captain Jordan Henderson just in front to protect Jordan Pickford, who was named by Southgate as his starting goalkeeper.

It's not an ideal situation, although quite how Holland will be able to take advantage is open to debate given their new-look attack.

No player in Koeman's squad has hit double figures at international level with eight-goal Memphis Depay alongside Georginio Wijnaldum as Holland's leading scorers available following the retirements of Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben.

The changing of the guard, with veterans Robin van Persie and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar left out, means Koeman needs to find replacements for the 160 international goals scored by those two plus Sneijder and Robben.

Sporting striker Bas Dost has never looked like the answer at this level and it may be a little soon for the likes of Ajax starlet Justin Kluivert, son of Patrick, to start dominating international matches.

Koeman, however, can be comforted by a more secure look to his defence and they are covered well by Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman.

Virgil van Dijk alongside Stefan de Vrij is a basis from which the Dutch should look to build towards Euro 2020, starting with a solid job against England.

Seven of England's last 12 goals have been scored by Kane and his absence highlights a lack of attacking depth with Danny Welbeck among the alternatives called up by Southgate.

Jamie Vardy or Marcus Rashford look more likely to start. The Manchester United man was the last player other than Kane to notch for England five matches ago.

Under 2.5 goals
1pt 8-11 188Bet

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Team news
Robin van Persie has been left out. Vincent Janssen is injured.

Jack Wilshere has not travelled to Amsterdam. Ryan Bertrand and Harry Kane are injured.

Key stat
England's last four matches have produced just two goals.

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Seven of England's last 12 goals have been scored by Harry Kane
E.W. Terms
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