We must continually remind ourselves of the reality of friendlies. They are practice matches more suited to the training ground, games in which few conclusive lessons are learned. We should not overly worry about results or make irreversible decisions.
Danny Welbeck gave me the feeling that his movement and mobility will be an asset to England, particularly with Wayne Rooney in attendance. Daniel Sturridge has taken a step forward, while the tenacious Scott Parker and Gareth Barry look a settled holding pair.
The two teams employed a similar system, 4-2-3-1, which gave us a chance to compare holding players, the England captain Parker and the shrewd and experienced Mark van Bommel. It also allowed us to contrast the wily Arjen Robben with Adam Johnson and Ashley Young on the England wing.
When Steven Gerrard left early, replaced by Sturridge with a third of the game gone, Young went infield as a second striker, dropping deeper than the mobile Welbeck. Sturridge immediately showed a little urgency, attacking the left-back, Erik Pieters. It was out of keeping with England's slower-paced first half.
As the Dutch retreated between the 15th and 17th minutes, England exchanged around 20 passes in their own half, keeping safe possession while Holland watched. The visitors were more eager to search out the forward ball when they gained possession – not necessarily long balls, but forward passes played to Robben, Wesley Sneijder or Robin van Persie, who moved into space both towards and away from the ball.
England's height from set plays seemed to trouble the Dutch, but in fluid play Holland were more forward thinking. The game felt very much like a comfortable friendly with little intensity, hardly a true audition. There was much passing but little end product and a lack of confidence from England to play a more penetrative forward pass. It is a clear fear – understandable at times – of losing possession, but risks must occasionally be taken in order to get a strike at goal.
Amid this lack of intensity, one can see why the defensive and midfield players were loth to risk the possibility of failing with a more difficult long pass, which can be easier for defences to read. Before he went off, Gerrard was the only England player to hit a crossfield pass. As the game coasted, England had periods of possession but little purpose.
Robben's urgency was a striking contrast. His powerful run – aided by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's magnificent movement, which took Smalling out of the cover space – led to the first goal. Then Smalling was beaten in the air as Kuyt crossed and Huntelaar headed bravely into the net. It was a marvellous header, a combination of Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse and Tommy Lawton.
More substitutions, and a change of mood as England chased the game, led to a more open match. Although England scored twice, those personnel changes restricted their chance of developing an attacking pattern.