Germany next up for Platt's predators

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The Independent Online

David Platt's team talk before the England Under-21s' match with their Dutch counterparts on Wednesday could have been reduced to just one sentence: "Turn to page six of your match programme."

Any player doing so would have found ample inspiration. The page detailed the Under-21s' last match at Reading's Madejski stadium – a 5-0 win over Luxembourg less than two years ago. Of the XI that began that night five were named in this week's senior squad: Emile Heskey, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Jamie Carragher and Danny Mills.

It is an unusually fruitful return for an age-group side but, to judge from last night's performance, it may not prove an isolated one. England, taking on board Platt's actual, rather more detailed, team talk, comfortably outplayed the Dutch and fully deserved their 4-0 win.

It was their enterprise which caught the eye. Despite coming off the back of a bad defeat in Greece, and being the first match under a new coach, England's youngsters were prepared to take risks, to, said Platt, "make an impact".

Luke Chadwick and Jonathan Greening, on the flanks, and Darius Vassell, in the centre, were particularly impressive and, throughout, the team movement off the ball was excellent.

Platt was just as pleased at the team's defensive display. "I wanted to work on some things and, although we did not have long together, they took it on board," he said, adding: "They have intelligent minds."

Platt continued: "We worked on making [their] play predictable. At international level players can hurt you if they are given the whole pitch to play in, especially the Dutch. There are still things to work on but for long periods we restricted them."

That provided the platform for Vassell, Jermain Defoe and Malcolm Christie to give Platt a rousing start. Christie, the Derby striker, gave a telling response to being allowed to play in his club position rather than on the wing as he had to under Howard Wilkinson.

Defoe made a dramatic impact after scoring within five seconds of entering the action as a second-half substitute for Vassell.

"This is an important season for me. I went to Bournemouth last season and really learned a lot there," Defoe said. "I'm not playing in the first team at West Ham but that's my dream, to play in the Premiership which is one of the best leagues in the world. What happened against Holland definitely does give you the confidence that you can do the business at a higher level.

"I want to get out into the Premiership and show everyone what I can do but I am also prepared to be patient and get my head down.

"I am still young and Glenn [Roeder, the West Ham manager] speaks to me and tells me that if I keep working hard then you never know what can happen."

He added: "I had a rough idea that the ball was going to drop to the far post and I managed to stick it away. But, although it is always nice to score for your country, the most important thing was that it was good preparation for the game coming up with Germany. We played really well and passed the ball around well."

Platt will now turn his attention to the Under-21 European Championship qualifying group from which England are struggling to qualify. Victory in their last three matches will take them through. The first one, away to Germany on 31 August, is a stiff task but, they now believe, it is achievable.

John Terry, the Chelsea defender whom Platt made captain, is suspended for the rest of the campaign, but he spoke for all when he said: "If Germany watch this game they will be the ones fearing us."

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