England manager Roy Hodgson has challenged Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge to use Tuesday’s friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley as an opportunity to stake a claim to a starting berth.
Sturridge, 26, went into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as Hodgson’s first-choice number nine, but missed the entirety of England’s successful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign due to a succession of injuries.
In the meantime he has seen Danny Welbeck, Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy steal past him in the striking hierarchy and Hodgson warned Sturridge that he will not get his place back without proving himself anew. He will have the perfect chance when England enter Tuesday’s game with the Netherlands as the bookies favourites.
“Things have changed enormously in terms of our squad and how we’re going to play since the World Cup,” Hodgson told reporters on Monday.
“There’s no carryover today. What he’s doing for Liverpool, for us in training and with us (in matches), that’s what counts.”
He added: “It’s been a lot more frustrating for him than for me. But in the seven or eight days we’ve been together now, he doesn’t carry any frustration with him. He’s back to the player he was.”
England approach the game on a high after Saturday’s thrilling 3-2 friendly win over world champions Germany in Berlin, where goals from Kane, Vardy and Eric Dier saw Hodgson’s men come from 2-0 down to prevail.
But while the ebullience of his youthful team’s display could not be denied, Hodgson was wary about describing them as potential European champions.
“They haven’t done it yet in a tournament,” he said.
“We still don’t really know how this young group would perform in tournament conditions against much more experienced teams like Germany, who are used to reaching finals, and France as the home nation.
“But I believe in the team. Absolutely. I believe we’re going to be ready and the players go into games believing they can win them, and they’ll go into the tournament believing they can do well.”
– Cruyff tribute –
Hodgson has confirmed that Sturridge will make his first England start for 18 months against Holland, who did not qualify for Euro 2016.
Southampton’s Fraser Forster will take over in goal from Jack Butland, who fractured his ankle against Germany, with Liverpool midfielder James Milner deputizing as captain in the absence through injury of Wayne Rooney.
Uncapped Leicester City midfielder Danny Drinkwater could also start.
The match will feature a minute of applause for Johan Cruyff in the 14th minute — a nod to his iconic shirt number — with an image of the late Dutch great to be displayed on Wembley’s big screens, but play will not stop as it did during Holland’s 3-2 loss to France last Friday.
The original Wembley held special meaning for Cruyff, for it was there that he won the first of his three European Cups with Ajax as a player in 1971 and led Barcelona to their first European crown as manager in 1992.
Holland won 3-2 in their last game at Wembley in February 2012, courtesy of an Arjen Robben brace, and prevailed by the same scoreline against Wales on their most recent visit to Britain in November.
Robben also netted twice in Cardiff, but he is currently absent with a thigh problem and coach Danny Blind has also seen playmaker Wesley Sneijder, goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen and midfielder Davy Klaassen withdraw from his squad through injury.
It leaves Holland dependent on untested youngsters such as 19-year-old Ajax midfielder Riechedly Bazoer, but Blind believes that matches such as Tuesday’s encounter represent an ideal opportunity for them.
“We have great players now — Robben, (Robin) van Persie, (Klaas-Jan) Huntelaar, (Nigel) de Jong, Sneijder — but the players from the ages of 25 to 28 aren’t there,” he said.
“So we have to deal with that. The only thing we can do is bring young players in and let them play games like tomorrow (Tuesday) so they can develop and become better players.”
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