England get a reality check, lose 2-1 to the Netherlands at Wembley Stadium
LONDON -- Three quick points from Tuesday's international friendly as the Netherlands rallied from 1-0 down to defeat England 2-1 at Wembley . . .
1. Dutch stun England's lax defending
After the joy of Berlin came a jolt back to earth for England. Defeat by a Dutch team in the doldrums appeared highly unlikely for long stretches of the match, only for lax defending and a pair of disputed refereeing decisions to deliver victory for Danny Blind's team. Roy Hodgson was left raging on the sideline.
Having led after Jamie Vardy completed an excellent team move to score in the 41st minute, Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz awarded a harsh-looking penalty for a Danny Rose handball early in the second half, which Vincent Janssen duly converted. Janssen was later allowed to barge Phil Jagielka out of the way to set up Luciano Narsingh's 77th minute winning goal.
There was a sense of injustice, but both goals owed plenty to defensive malfunction. John Stones' slip set up the sequence of play that led to the penalty, while Narsingh scored when left unmarked at the back post. The defensive vulnerability that led to England being two goals down before winning 3-2 on Saturday proved far more costly here.
It was a shame for England, for whom a second XI had shown promising flourishes in attack. They woke up around the half-hour mark, with Vardy disappointed to smash a long-range shot over the bar and a slick passing exchange setting Rose down the left to cross for Daniel Sturridge's shot to be blocked when a goal seemed certain. Debutant midfielder Danny Drinkwater also had a shot cleared off the line, with Ross Barkley joining the party when completing a surge forward with an effort from distance.
It all preceded a top-grade goal scored by Vardy. Adam Lallana was given space by Sturridge's dummy run to play in Kyle Walker on the overlap, and the Spurs right-back was equally calm and considered in waiting for Vardy to arrive for a tap-in.
That made it two goals in two games for Vardy; barring injury, he now looks nailed on to make the 23-man squad that will travel to France this summer. He might have had more, requiring a fingertip save from Jeroen Zoet to keep out his fizzing drive in the 61st minute. Vardy's goal, and the creation of many other chances, showed again that there are goals within Hodgson's squad.
There are also goals to be found against them, as the Dutch proved. Stemming that flow is now Hodgson's main task in hand.
2. Five forwards looks certain for Euro 2016
Making nine changes from the team that beat world champion Germany 3-2 on Saturday looked like typical Hodgson dampening down, though it actually owed more to a desire to see as much of his squad as possible.
England's win in Berlin had briefly glossed over the thrills of the Premier League but the title race climax will soon be back on everyone's minds. Hodgson will have pleased Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino by giving Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Harry Kane a rest and only starting Rose and Walker of Spurs' quintet ahead of a tough trip to Liverpool on Saturday. Rose, who excelled in the first half to follow his fine display in Germany, looks to have booked his berth to their Chantilly headquarters. Walker cannot be far off doing the same.
Meanwhile, Leicester's Claudio Ranieri had to sweat through Vardy and Drinkwater's participation before Southampton are welcomed to the Midlands on Sunday. That said, the Italian may welcome the confidence both men will have gleaned from the international break; Vardy has scored twice and played with typical zest while Drinkwater looked far from overawed in midfield.
Sturridge's start was good news for club and country. He still needs games to recover lost sharpness. It had been 573 days since his previous England appearance, a friendly against Norway; a muscle injury suffered two days later in national team training began his long absence from Liverpool's team. Some Reds fans blame England's manager for such problems (especially after Hodgson's ignominious spell at Anfield) but the repetition of muscle problems has instead long suggested a deeper underlying issue.
There were gasps when Sturridge collapsed to the ground in the early going, but swift sighs of relief followed when it became clear his only problem was his boots coming undone. His cameo in Vardy's goal reminded of a class that will only be ignored if injury rears up its ugly head.
With confirmed Hodgson favourite Danny Welbeck back and captain Wayne Rooney's omission little but a pipe dream for the haters, it appears certain that England will take five forwards to the finals. The preferred 4-3-3 formation demands that safety of numbers.
3. New dawn for the Dutch?
It is a matter of national embarrassment that the Dutch will not be part of this summer's festivities. The late Johan Cruyff, applauded by all corners of the ground during the 14th minute to match the late Dutch master's chosen shirt number, had been a vocal critic of the current generation, expressing exasperation at their inability to play a decent pass as their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign collapsed into disaster.
Despite beating England, it's clear that a return to the slick distribution and sharp creation of angles, reflective of Dutch football at its apex, is some way off. Blind chose a counterattacking strategy for his young team and it eventually delivered. Until his 79th minute removal, the player who stood out most readily was Riechedly Bazoer, a teenage Ajax midfielder whose style is galaxies removed from the balletic grace of Cruyff. Bazoer is tough in the tackle and strong in the air but looks to have a high cruising speed when called into attacking play.
In this immediate post-Cruyff era, such athleticism and grit may have to be the way that the Dutch find their way back out of the wilderness, yet there is plenty of work to do: Georginio Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay were the same models of inconsistency they are for Newcastle and Manchester United respectively.
Still, Blind and his men had made sure that England have now gone two decades without beating the men in orange.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.