Gareth Southgate’s England squad will face friendlies against Holland and Italy in March as part of their preparations for the World Cup in Russia, the Football Association has announced.
The Three Lions will travel to Amsterdam to take on Holland at the Johan Cruyff Arena on Friday March 23 before welcoming Italy to Wembley Stadium on Tuesday March 27.
Although billed as competitive opposition, neither Holland or Italy will be joining England at the World Cup next summer with the former failing to qualify from their group and the latter losing out in a play-off to Sweden.
Gareth Southgate will test his England team against Holland and Italy next March
Italy missed out on a place in the World Cup 2018 after defeat to Sweden in their play-off tie
Arjen Robben’s Holland narrowly missed out on a play-off place to Sweden in Group A
CONFIRMED ENGLAND FIXTURES FOR 2018
Mar 23: Holland vs England
Mar 27: England vs Italy
Jun 14 – Jul 15: World Cup 2018
For now, England’s focus will be squarely on their upcoming friendly against Brazil, who they face at Wembley on Tuesday evening following a 0-0 draw against World Cup holders Germany last week.
With a spate of injuries affecting his team selection, Southgate will give young and inexperienced players a chance to impress against the five-time world champions and throw themselves into contention for a ticket to Russia.
One player who may be feeling the pressure to impress in Marcus Rashford. The 20-year-old has made 14 appearances for England since making his debut in May 2016 but has managed just two goals so far.
Marcus Rashford leaves England boss Gareth Southgate open-mouthed in training
The 20-year-old could be set to face Brazil for the first time in his career on Tuesday night
Despite a poor record in an England shirt, Southgate praised the Manchester United starlet’s contribution to the team.
He said: ‘It’s amazing really that he’s been a player who’s been able to dip under the radar as we think so much of him, not only his ability, but his mentality and his maturity.
‘He’s a very exciting player, but very grounded, wants to improve all the time.
‘For me he’s going to be a top player. He has all the attributes of the top players I’ve worked with, but he’s still only 20.’
The draw for the World Cup will take place in Moscow on December 1 and England, currently 12th in the FIFA rankings, are set to be named in Pot 2.
That means they face being paired with a juggernaut of international football with Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium and France making up Pot 1. Hosts Russia, however, will also be in Pot 1 and represent a less daunting challenge to Southgate’s men.
Neymar’s Brazil side were pictured training on the Wembley Stadium pitch on Monday night