HOLLAND lost a thriller to bitter rivals Germany last night – but gave Gareth Southgate plenty to think about ahead of the summer.
England take on the Dutch in a Nations League semi-final in June, and they battled back bravely from a shaky first half before going down to a last-minute Nico Schulz winner.
Manchester City’s Leroy Sane made another point to Joachim Low, who left him out of Germany’s World Cup fiasco, with a third goal since being recalled.
And Liverpool star Virgil Van Dijk was both caught out and turned inside out for the visitors’ second goal after 34 minutes scored by Serge Gnabry in this Euro 2020 qualifier.
Former Everton boss Ronald Koeman changed things around at half-time – moving from 4-3-3 to 5-3-2 and taking off Fulham’s Ryan Babel, guilty of two glaring misses.
And a rejuvenated Holland were rewarded with goals from Ajax teenage defender Matthijs De Ligt and then former Manchester United forward Memphis Depay.
But the Dutch, who took four points off Germany in their Nations League group, were undone at the death.
Holland fielded arguably their strongest team – one very close to what the Three Lions can expect to face in the summer.
After the bleakest period in Dutch football history and failing to qualify for back-to-back major finals, the Oranje believe more good times are around the corner.
And a clash with oldest rivals Germany was a fitting way to mark the third anniversary of the passing of Dutch master Johann Cruyff.
The renamed Johann Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam celebrates the Holland legend, and his silky skills would have graced the stage and occasion yesterday.
Germany again started with Manchester City’s Sane, reintegrated by Low after his baffling omission for what proved a humiliating World Cup failure in Russia.
Barcelona goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was brought into early action as Sane cut through on the left, and Serge Gnabry’s fierce drive was parried away.
As play swung to the other end Lyon forward Depay was chopped down by Joshua Kimmich – but blazed the free-kick over.
But Sane gave the visitors the lead after 15 minutes. Nico Schulz raced down the left and out in a teasing cross.
But a slip from Ajax’s Matthjis De Ligt proved very costly as Sane had all the time in the world to bring the ball down and tuck it into the far corner.
Fulham’s Ryan Babel should have equalised after 24 minutes, but clean through he saw Manuel Neuer pull off a fine stop.
And within two minutes Neuer was it again with a miracle close-range instinctive stop from the former Liverpool winger – with Babel left shaking his head in disbelief.
Holland were soon made to pay for Babel’s misses, while Germany took full advantage of Neuer’s brilliance.
After 34 minutes Liverpool’s Van Dijk, hailed for his displays in the Premier League and Champions League this season, was left as red-faced as the Anfield club’s shirts.
First he let Bayern Munich’s Gnabry drift behind him, and the forward then turned him inside out before being allowed the space to curl a superb shot into the far corner.
most read in football
After the break De Ligt made some amends for his earlier error, glancing in a cross from Depay.
And Depay himself levelled things up after 63 minutes as Germany failed to clear and he coolly found the corner.
But sub Marco Reus teed up Schulz for the winner.