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England Have It All to Shout About Ahead of Euro 2016 Despite Netherlands Loss

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Jamie Vardy (n10) of England celebrates scoring the opening goal with Kyle Walker during the International Friendly match between England and Netherlands at Wembley Stadium on March 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Garry HayesFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 7, 2017

The response to defeating Germany in their own backyard on Friday was for England to not get carried away. Now they've been on the receiving end of a late comeback and a defeat at home, Roy Hodgson's men need to do the same.

Friendly internationals are a tough barometer for which to judge the makeup of a team. Victories can lead to inflated confidence and, equally, defeats can make it seem that steps are going in the wrong direction.

Results count for little in the international game until it hits tournament time. That's where legends are made and great teams are forged. We can dissect performances leading into UEFA Euro 2016, but it's only when we're in France that anything matters.

Defeating Germany counted for little; losing to the Netherlands is just the same.

What Hodgson will do well to take from this international break is how this England team continues to evolve. It's one that looks unrecognisable from the side that limped out of the World Cup less than two years ago. The manager has rebuilt a nation's belief, and he's done it with an emphasis on youth.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Jamie Vardy of England is congratulated by James Milner after scoring the opening goal during the International Friendly match between England and Netherlands at Wembley Stadium on March 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by
Julian Finney/Getty Images

For all the talk of the Premier League suffocating the national team's hopes, the rise of the next generation for English football has been rapid. The side that started against Germany in Berlin last week had seven players aged either 25 or under, while it was four against the Dutch at Wembley Stadium.

These kids—perhaps young adults is more fitting—are more than holding their own, too. They're causing problems and looking a real threat, which hasn't always been the case.

It's in stark contrast to years gone by where successive England managers struggled to blend the so-called "Golden Generation" with the talent coming through.

The problem was the reputations of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and others dictated their inclusion. They were too big to leave out if a manager wanted to take another direction, and it meant hands were often tied.

Now, the vacuum their retirements left after the 2014 FIFA World Cup has meant players have forced their way in on merit. With few established names to choose from, Hodgson has been able to build his squad based upon performances and little else.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Jamie Vardy (c) of England scores the opening goal past Jeroen Zoet goalkeeper of the Netherlands (L) during the International Friendly match between England and Netherlands at Wembley Stadium on March 29, 2016 in London, Engl
Julian Finney/Getty Images

With Wayne Rooney out injured, England have also gained much with the likes of Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane impressing up front in his absence. Both have scored and carried their club form into an England shirt to give considerable options in attack.

As we entered the international break, the expectation was that a victory and defeat would have come in reverse to what we've seen. England weren't expected to beat Germanyespecially in the way they did. Equally, they weren't expected to lose at Wembley to a Netherlands side that has failed to qualify for this summer's European Championship.

The hope was that Hodgson's men would at least breed some hope as preparations for France ramp up. And it's exactly that they have done.

We saw some exciting football at times. Against Germany, it was the manner in which a young side got at the world champions and didn't look fazed, even when trailing 2-0 in the second half; when the Netherlands visited Wembley, Vardy's finish to complete a wonderful team move was as unlike England as we have seen in a long while.

Indeed, it was that Vardy strike to put England 1-0 ahead against the Dutch that captured the imagination most—more so than his crafty flick to equalise against Germany.

It wasn't a moment of brilliance from one player, but that of a team. From John Stones' pass out of defence to Daniel Sturridge's clever decoy run and Kyle Walker's cross to put it on a plate for Vardy, we captured a glimpse of a team beginning to mould together.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Harry Kane talks with Jamie Vardy of England during the International Friendly match between England and Netherlands at Wembley Stadium on March 29, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

It was the antithesis of England, as it's so rare that we see a talented group come together and play like anything that resembles a collective.

The fact they allowed the Netherlands back into the gameregardless of refereeing decisionswill be a big cause for concern. In an international friendly, nothing is lost, but if England don't avoid those same mistakes this summer, the same headlines from two years ago will rear their heads once more.

When we see just how far this team has come, there's every reason for Hodgson and his players to not feel a burden of fear, however. Results are one thing, performances quite another, and England have demonstrated they are capable of plenty.

Hodgson should be feeling buoyed for how far this team can go.

"The manager can play three or four teams, different combinations," Rooney said on Wednesday in his role as a pundit for ITV. "For the country [Euro 2016 is] going to be an exciting tournament."

Germany didn't change that outlook and neither should defeat to the Netherlands.

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