The Dutch, for all their remarks about the importance of not losing, are here for the points. Gullit, Wouters and Rijkaard know victory over England would take them closer to a another shot at the World Cup.
A revitalised Ruud Gullit is the key. Tony Adams and Des Walker should be equal to the breaks through the middle (unless Dennis Bergkamp turns it on), but it is the flying dreadlocks bearing down on England's left that will most trouble the home ranks. Martin Keown's mastery at marking will not face a stiffer test. In training on Monday, Gullit was imperious, ghosting past some challenges, muscling through others.
The midfield, built around the industrious Jan Wouters, keep working the ball wide to Gullit on the right; even John de Wolf, Feyenoord's hirsute cult figure, can pick out the Dutch destroyer from defence.
Gullit's crossing, when he opts against dribbling in, will be directed towards Peter van Vossen while Bergkamp will lurk eager to shoot on sight from anywhere. One Bergkamp training-session volley, reminiscent of Marco van Basten's glorious strike in the 1988 European Championship final, flew in from the tightest of angles before the normally agile keeper, Ed de Goey, could flinch.
Dick Advocaat, the Dutch manager, names his team only hours before kick-off but Bergkamp's club colleague, Marc Overmars, is expected to be stationed on the left flank, allowing him a run at Lee Dixon. Overmars, a diminutive member of the Ryan Giggs fan club, is a huge admirer of British football, particularly the type being practised at forward- minded Manchester United. 'The public here get such good value - 90 minutes of entertainment,' the 20- year-old said. As Overmars' name suggests, he goes like a rocket, although his surges upfield lack the variety of Gullit's. But anyone who scores with their first touch in international football has to be watched.
Wouters and Frank Rijkaard will orchestrate the midfield manoeuvres while the Wolfman prowls at the heart of the defence, where pace, Les Ferdinand will be pleased to note, is not at a premium. On the right, Aron Winter, Paul Gascoigne's club-mate, is expected to track John Barnes. For weeks, the Lazio pair have been teasing each other about who is going to prevail. 'He's a great player,' Winter said of Gascoigne, 'but a little bit mad.' Madness v Mayhem: it has all the makings of a classic.Reuse content