Whether he’d care to admit it, the only Englishman present at Wembley who’ll have got any satisfaction from England’s performance against Holland last night was Wayne Rooney, perched in ITV’s punditry studio thinking ‘THEY STILL NEED ME'.
Either way, on the back of such a memorable victory over Germany, a loss was always going to bring the Three Lions back down to earth with a bump. So, just what have we learnt from these two big name friendlies ahead of the Euros?
Forget captaincy, James Milner shouldn’t be in the squad full stop
Strong, versatile, trustworthy. With a skillset that sounds like the marketing spiel for Black & Decker power tools, there’s no denying James Milner’s commitment for the cause for England – haranguing fullbacks and running with the ball without ever looking up, he’s a workhorse of a player. But with the technically-savvy and energetic squad that’s emerged around him, the emphasis should be on retaining possession as opposed to chasing it. And sadly, as England captain, he was about as effective on the field of play as a Ryder Cup captain on the golf course - a passenger. Too sloppy with the ball and lumbering without.
Roy Hodgson has to go for it
In the wake of England’s rousing comeback vs Germany, Hodgson used the win to go on the offensive and claim the English media had always wrongly pegged him as a safe type, someone scared of taking risks, when in actual fact he goes for it when he has a side with superior quality to the opposition they’re facing.
Well Roy, now’s your chance. Arguably the most exciting batch of young English talent since 2002, England’s comeback in Berlin showed the team are an emerging force to contend with – and while they weren’t all at the races yesterday, there were enough signs (the one touch play, the overlapping runs from wide in the build-up to Vardy’s goal) to suggest they could leave a dent in France. And let’s face it, Hodgson’s got nothing to lose, so he might as well go for it.
Don’t count John Stones out just yet
Much will have been made of the Everton defender’s ungainly slip which resulted in Danny Rose conceding a penalty yesterday, but what we should be focusing on are the pin-point accurate passes he made in the game to tee-up two goal scoring chances. If England fans truly wants a team to emerge with a swagger, confidence and ultimately creative style to move away from the days of tired 4-4-2 predictably, Stones is the ball-playing defender this new team needs. The talent is clearly there; all he needs now is more game time with Everton and a strong finish to his season.
Eric Dier and Deli Alli are the way forward
Quarterback. Conductor. Anchorman. However you peg Danny Drinkwater’s deep-lying and otherwise impressive midfield performance against Holland last night, having made just the one tackle in 70 minutes, he’s simply not defence-minded enough to act as a sweeper in front of a back four already known as the side’s weakest link. Instead, the role has to go to Dier, so incisive and courageous with his countless blocks against the Germans, he’s practically a shoo-in to make the role his own for years to come. It also helps of course that his counterpart roaming forward will likely be club teammate Dele Alli, whose recent performances have just shaded those of Everton’s attacking midfielder Ross Barkley.
Jamie Vardy might be better suited as an impact sub
It’s not rocket science: by selecting players based on club form as opposed to reputation, Hodgson's recent squads have been like a breath of fresh air for the national game. However, no matter how hot Jamie Vardy is for Leicester this season, and despite scoring two in two for England, Harry Kane is emerging as the main man, with a lingering possibility Hodgson will find a way of shunting his talisman Wayne Rooney in the starting XI. With Kane solo up top, Vardy may be used as an impact substitute. Which is no bad thing. Constantly lively against the Dutch, it wasn’t a patch on his surprise guile and speed against a tiring German outfit in the second half.
Roy Hodgson pretty much knows his XI
For all the negative talk of yesterday’s defeat, this was effectively Hodgson's B-team, a second string composed mostly of those on the fringes of the squad looking to impress before the summer. Of those hoping for a place, Theo Walcott was a handful for the Dutch but predictably wasteful in the final third; Frasier Forster didn’t do much to suggest he could dethrone Joe Hart between the sticks; having ironed out a few inconsistencies in his game Kyle Walker could snatch Nathaniel Clyne's spot at right-back. Over in the weakest part of the team - central defence - the betting man would put money on Chris Smalling partnering Gary Cahill. Danny Rose is still favourite for left-back, especially with Leighton Baines still struggling for form following injury. As the only attacking player to start both friendlies, Adam Lallana - whose start against the Dutch was apt given he performs around 12 Cryuff turns per game - looks odds on to start at the Euros as one of the two alternative wide-men - probably with Danny Welbeck on the left once again.
Basically, we're going to bloody win it.