The circulation of England’s squad list on Twitter last Thursday can only mean one thing.
The international break returns, but unlike others before, there is a unique atmosphere surrounding the fixtures over the coming week.
Given the magnitude of 2018, with the FIFA World Cup only *84 days* away, these games are more important than ever.
June’s tournament will be played without some exceptional teams, including Chile, Italy and Wales.
As we all know, England have the potential to rival the world’s best, which is why the upcoming fixture against the Netherlands will prove to be a stern test.
Having failed to qualify under Dick Advocaat, their absence will be a huge loss, particularly when considering the strength in-depth of their squad.
Given the nature of his departure as Everton manager, newly appointed yet seasoned manager, Ronald Koeman will be hoping to turn a new chapter in Holland’s footballing history.
Though they are not the once formidable Netherlands national team, any football fan would still hold the upmost respect for them. Especially when accounting for their past talent, including that of our very own ‘Flying Dutchman’ Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijdier and the deadly left-foot of Arjen Robben.
Pivotal to Koeman’s squad is Virgil van Dijk. The £75 million defender, who previously worked with the Netherlands manager at Southampton, will be seeking to implement his club form onto the international stage.
Although this Netherlands squad do not have much to prove, at the same time it is important important to show that they are still among the great international teams, especially after failing to qualify for the World Cup.
Koeman, however, will not be a stranger to the quality of his opponents. Gareth Southgate’s selection choices mark intent, hope and an array of talent. There are several youngsters who have been selected and will be eager to show Southgate that they deserve to be in Russia this summer.
The first name on every one of his team sheets will unequivocally be that of Tottenham’s prolific striker, Harry Kane. Therefore, his notable absence due to damaged lateral ligaments suffered in his right ankle, provides the English manager with a critical assessment of how his team can cope without their most potent asset.
Few can deny that Kane is central to everything promising about England. At 24 years of age, he has been around long enough to understand what is required at the top level of international football but still developing into one of England’s finest attackers. Former Arsenal midfielder, Paul Merson, recently remarked that as long as Kane continues his phenomenal form, England could win the World Cup in Russia.
Outrageous? Maybe. Practically impossible? Well, considering Kane’s highly impressive numbers this season of 39, anything is possible. For such a prolific striker to be spoken in the same sentence as the world-class Messi and Ronaldo, he’ll not only need to start winning silverware at Tottenham but cement his status on the international stage. England have produced some spectacular strikers, including our own, Wayne Rooney who is currently the record goalscorer, previously held by Sir Bobby Charlton. Before this, Kane still has some way to go to surpass the efforts of Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker and Teddy Sherringham.
A myriad of youthful and fresh faces emerge from the England line-up, with first call-ups awarded to Burnley’s goalkeeper Nick Pope, Swansea’s Alfie Mawson and Burnley’s James Tarkowski. The latter two are probably the most surprising. Furthermore, this England squad features an international return for Jack Wilshere.
England will walk out off the back of two draws against the world’s best, Brazil and Germany. This international break sees them face another two of the world’s best, this time Netherlands and Italy. Hopefully we can start this off with a good performance and win against the Dutch.
Written by John Abiona