AN ENTERTAINING evening of international fixtures was seen as an opportunity for the summer’s Euro 2016 contenders to test their mettle with their probing starting elevens shaking off the rivalries and tension of various league campaigns.
England stuck to the script, with media fanfare following their dramatic victory against Germany last week being thoroughly subdued by a solid Dutch team that lacks star quality. A sense of déjà vu has been in the air of late as pundits dare to dream, and sell papers, by predicting a (potentially, just maybe) triumphant English campaign in France in June.
That notion remains of course entirely plausible, although France, Spain, and Germany will remain significant favourites, but was punctured by a sense of defensive fragility that belied the young team. This was emphasised by the performance of John Stone which may have cost him his place in finals.
Another young team from north of the border had little to prove in the way of finals competition but held their nerve regardless to see Scotland secure a 1-0 victory over a lacklustre Danish side. The result follows on from their similarly scored victory over the Czech Republic last week and has calmed recent fears of a national football implosion.
Perhaps the loudest statement of the evening came from a French side which dismantled Russia 4-2 in an attacking masterclass which showcased the huge talent at Didier Deschamps disposal. That talent is falling over itself in the hopes of representing the host nation and the finals and, based on this performance, the smart money is on a French victory.