The captain for the night admitted the failure to move the ball quickly enough contributed to a 2-1 defeat against a Holland team who have not qualified for Euro 2016, and his comments were backed up by Daley Blind’s warning that England are likely to be confronted by sides attempting to stifle them this summer. The Dutch captain praised their opponents’ attacking options but felt his team were comfortable.
The verve and fearlessness evident three days earlier in England’s stirring victory over Germany in Berlin were sorely lacking. Blind revealed that Holland were happy to concede possession, leaving less space behind their defence, and Roy Hodgson’s side looked uncertain when the onus was on them to seize the initiative.
“Maybe it is a reality check,” Milner said. “We have shown we can beat anyone by beating the world champions but also that we need to be more consistent game-in and game-out. You need that in a tournament – you can’t play one game and have a game off.
“We probably didn’t play with the intensity of the other day. We had more of the ball and I think sometimes it comes from us not moving it quickly enough. When the other team has the ball sometimes it is easier to start quicker and get in the faces and press and that gets the intensity into the game. When we have the ball it is down to us to get the intensity into the game and we didn’t do that.”
In England’s defence Hodgson selected an experimental side. The Tottenham trio of Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Harry Kane were rested along with Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and England did take the lead with a fine team goal, Jamie Vardy finishing off a flowing move.
“It would have been good to back up the result [in Germany],” Milner added. “But on the other hand we have probably learnt more than we did in the game on Saturday – the reality of international football, not taking your chances, not playing at a high enough tempo and then at the other end not getting a couple of decisions and being punished.
“We will learn a lot from tonight and it shows us all as a group moving forward that we will hopefully learn those lessons and show the consistency you need if you’re going to do well in a tournament.”
Blind argued that Holland restricted England to few clear opportunities. “We played more on the counterattack,” the Manchester United player said. “I think against an opponent like England, with a lot of quality, it was more that type of game for us.
“I think we played really compact and with a lot of discipline and I think after the goal they didn’t create a lot of chances. Most of the time it was shots outside the box and we are prepared for that. We did well and we played on the counter and scored two goals.
“Today’s football, you look to the opponent and we know that England is a bit further than us at the moment. You have to adapt and it’s not the typical Dutch style because we want to play but we did well, really disciplined and fighting for every ball.”
England’s group opponents at Euro 2016, Russia, Slovakia and Wales, will surely take note. “It’s definitely a challenge because I think a lot of countries will say that England is a stronger team and they have a lot of quality in the team,” Blind said. “But I think England have enough quality to score goals. They have a lot of goalscorers, so I don’t think they have to worry.”
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