BY Steve Njuguna
After a long week of EURO 2016 qualifying matches, there was a round of international friendlies on Tuesday night presumably with the intent of testing squad depth and competitiveness of some of the fringe players of the squad. Spain faced off against Netherlands, who beat them 5-1 when they last met at the 2014 FIFA World Cup less than 12 months ago. England went up against Italy under somewhat similar circumstances, the Italians having bested them 2-1 in the same World Cup. The atmosphere was set for a grudge match scenario but it is common knowledge that friendly matches lack the intensity of actual games due to the fact that many second string players are accorded valuable game time.
Spain squared off against Netherlands in Amsterdam with a largely second string side, resting their main stars after a 1-0 win against Albania in a European qualifiers a few days before. Young Malaga striker Juanmi was handed a starting berth and Arsenal midfielder Santiago Cazorla who is usually on the bench also got a place in the starting line up as well as Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.
However, the young but talented Spanish side was given no quarter by their Dutch hosts who beat them with a 2-0 margin with Lazio defender Stefan de Vrij scoring before midfielder Davy Classen also got on the score sheet in a good display as they bounced back from a disappointing 1-1 European qualifier against Turkey.
England came into their friendly at Turin on the back of a 4-0 win against Lithuania at the Wembley Stadium. Injuries suffered by Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge meant that the coach had to improvise on his attacking options drafting in Theo Walcott and Harry Kane to partner Wayne Rooney in an attacking trio. This proved ineffective as Walcott did not seem content with his central forward position. As the game pulled on, the Italians got on the score sheet with Southampton striker Graziano Pelle heading in a goal in the first half. A flurry of changes saw midfield operator Michael Carrick brought in for Phil Jones and Andros Townsend replaced Theo Walcott .This turned out to be an inspired substitution as Townsend scored a cracker of a goal from 20 yards out to finally permeate the Italian wall of defense.