Mead, of course, has not played for England for a year. She’s recovered from an ACL injury. Can she be a catalyst for a miraculous recovery?
49 min: Miedema is pictured sitting on the Dutch bench. I wonder if we’ll be seeing the Arsenal forward soon? It’s still 1-1 between Belgium and Scotland.
47 min: The home crowd – out in force despite the freezing cold – haven’t lost hope. James makes early inroads. One change made by Wiegman at half-time: Beth Mead is on for Kelly.
Here we go.
England need to score four goals, and win 4-2, to have a chance of qualifying for the Olympics. It’s a serious situation. See you in a few minutes for more.
45 min: James clips a good curling cross into the danger zone. But it’s dealt with by the visitors, who look completely comfortable.
43 min: Stanway, again, is at the thick of the action for England, winning the ball back on halfway and driving inside. She takes a heavy touch though and is dispossessed.
40 min: Bronze and Stanway link nicely on the edge of the area. Stanway hits a shot which cannons back off a Dutch defender. Wiegman is pictured in her technical area, looking on, wondering how she might start to remedy this perilous position for England. There will be changes at half-time you’d think.
38 min: Chloe Kelly tries to get England going by smacking a fine low shot from outside the area. Van Domselaar is well beaten but it flashes just wide.
And another! Oh, this is poor from England, it has to be said. There is hesitation aplenty across the back line when the ball bounces towards the penalty area and Lieke Martens challenges for it. It looks like Carter is in position to launch it into Row Z, but she allows the ball past her. Beerensteyn pounces on it and hits a shot which appears to be more or less straight at Earps. The captain can only palm it into the net. On replay, it looks like Beerensteyn was offside, but of course there is no VAR.
31 min: Pelova, again, is causing headaches aplenty for England. Rushing towards the area she draws a foul from Greenwood, who is booked, and now a free-kick in a promising position for the Dutch. Spitse, the captain, belts a shot goalwards but it never looks likely to dip enough and flies over the crossbar. Greenwood will need to be careful after her yellow card.
29 min: The visitors try to play out from the back. Van de Donk loses it, and England suddenly have the ball in a promising position. The crowd cheers up, but the Netherlands eventually manage to clear their lines.
27 min: England are again on the front foot. Stanway makes a good run on the right for the Lionesses and ghosts into the penalty area with the ball at her feet. But eventually she is tackled.
Erin Cuthbert of Chelsea has equalised for Scotland in Belgium. It’s 1-1 there now.
24 min: Fast counterattack by England. James receives the ball in a central area, glides away from one tackle, and cracks a shot that flies over the bar.
23 min: Roord, from the corner, crosses from the Dutch left. She doesn’t mean to shoot, I don’t think, but the ball cannons back off the woodwork anyway!
21 min: Pelova causes problems again, skipping away from the challenge of Walsh, and hitting a shot from 25 yards or so. It deflects out for a corner. England look second-best now and the passing and close control of the Netherlands is making a big difference.
17 min: Van de Donk, the former Arsenal midfielder, cracks a shot from the edge of the box that flies high and wide. I feared that in all the excitement of England’s bright start, the Netherlands were ready to strike on the break. On commentary, Emma Hayes is casting aspersions on Bronze’s defensive positioning.
The permutations are that England need to win by two goals tonight for their dream of topping the group to endure. So now they need a minimum of three. In many ways, that goal for the Netherlands does change their task for the evening.
Belgium, meanwhile, are now beating Scotland 1-0. A double blow for England’s hopes of qualifying for the Olympics.
Oh dear. A quite brilliant pass inside from the right wing, by Pelova, splits the English defence. Beerensteyn manages to outpace the covering defenders, and gets a slightly lucky break when the ball ends up at her feet after two English defenders come together to challenge her … but she then has space and time and belts the ball low and unerringly into the net from close range.
10 min: What an effort! What a save! James releases Hemp on the left. She belts a first-time shot across the goalie which is destined for the corner of the net. Van Domselaar makes a stunning save … and erroneously a goal kick is awarded.
8 min: Now James is sprinting down the England left, trying to get on the end of a ball into the channel. But it’s just overhit. Still England are pressing forward. But when the Dutch do get on the ball, they aren’t afraid to stroke it around a bit.
6 min: It’s all England at the moment. Charles clips a good-looking cross over from the left wing this time. Kelly meets it with a header but it’s well wide and never likely to trouble Van Domselaar.
4 min: England win a free-kick on their right wing. It’s pumped into the area by Greenwood, and the Netherlands manage to deal with it, although there looks to be a foul on Bronze on the edge. Not given.
2 min: Kelly plays a brilliantly perceptive pass forward and inside for Bronze, who runs into space and then lays the ball off to Hemp. Hemp drills a cross to the far post where Stanway cannot control her header. That got the crowd cheering, though, and it all came from some crisp passing by England.
1 min: The Dutch begin confidently, stroking a few passes around in the England half, before some good pressing by Hemp and then Kelly forces them back.
The Netherlands get us started on a cold night in north London.
ITV’s commentator, Seb Hutchinson, just reminded us there is no VAR this evening, but there is goal-line technology.
Victory for the visitors tonight would assure that they win the group. Plenty riding on this one. Here’s the current league table for your perusal.
The teams are out on the pitch, and the band is striking up for the anthems.
Belarus v Czech Republic, France v Austria and Spain v Italy are the other Women’s Nations League matches on the menu this evening. All the weekend football fixtures are here.
ITV have just shown an excellent piece on the life and career of the late Terry Venables by Gabriel Clarke. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Liew and then Paul Hayward on the life of the former England, Barcelona and Tottenham manager:
A highly-charged international England match against the Netherlands, with qualification for a major tournament on the line … What sort of thing is happening here?
Here’s a piece on that fateful 1993 night by Jamie Jackson, from 2006, with input from Taylor himself, David Platt, Gary Pallister, David Platt … and Bryan Roy!
Speaking to ITV, Bayern Munich’s Georgia Stanway speaks about losing out to Spain in the World Cup final: “Losing the final was one of the hardest things I’ve faced as an individual … I went home, opened my front door, and it was silent … things come crashing down, and you’ve got to find that motivation in you somewhere. At some point in the next year it’s going to creep up on me – but that’s how I want to deal with it now.”
“With the Netherlands and Belgium having beaten England this year,” emails Peter Oh, “maybe Luxembourg will fancy having a pop at making it a clean Benelux sweep?”
Last time out, England were beaten in a five-goal thriller in Belgium, a setback that put qualification out of their hands.
Suzanne Wrack was on the scene:
You can email me with your predictions, thoughts and dreams.
“Red card for misogyny, Free kick for progress.”
The UK’s first and so far only female poet laureate has written a sonnet to honour England’s Lionesses and a game she says she has “loved from childhood”.
Aluko, on pundit duty ITV4, says England need to tighten up a bit “and we’ll be OK”. Wright chips in: “There is something about our sloppiness in attack that really worries me”. Hayes, who is soon off to the commentary box, points out there is a lot of experience in this Dutch lineup.
Are England ready, Sarina Wiegman is asked on ITV4: “I hope so,” says the Lionesses manager. “We had a good week so far. Tonight we have to show up, and we’re ready to go.
“We want attack … I chose the ones (the front three) who are best in form … I had lots of choices to make … Millie Bright is a miss.”
How close was Beth Mead to starting? “We had many choices to make. The competition was really high.”
ITV4 have rolled out the heavy artillery as far as pundits go: Emma Hayes, Ian Wright, Eni Aluko and Karen Carney are in the studio with the presenter Laura Woods.
Sarina Wiegman insisted England are “not panicking” after a 3-2 defeat away by Belgium took control of their Nations League group and Olympic qualification out of the Lionesses’ hands.
Keira Walsh has said England want to “put things right” against the Netherlands on Friday night, after a 3-2 defeat against Belgium in their previous Nations League match dented their hopes of Olympic qualification for Team GB.
Tonight marks Lauren Hemp’s 50th cap for England, with the goalkeeper, Mary Earps, captaining a side packed with major tournament winners. The defender and usual captain Millie Bright is out injured, so Jess Carter comes in, while Alessia Russo drops to the bench, with Hemp starting instead. Lauren James also starts in attack.
Plenty of familiar names in the Dutch squad, with Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema beginning the evening on the bench and the former Gunner, Danielle van de Donk, starting in midfield.
England (4-3-3): Earps (capt.); Bronze, Carter, Greenwood, Charles; Stanway, Walsh, Kirby; Kelly, Hemp, James. Substitutes: Morgan, Hampton, Toone, Wubben-Moy, Zelem, Mead, Clinton, Daly, Le Tissier, Keating, Turner, Russo.
Netherlands (4-3-3): Van Domselaar; Pelova, Dijkstra, Janssen, Brugts; Groenen, Spitse (capt.), Van de Donk; Roord, Beerensteyn, Martens. Substitutes: Lorsheyd, Weimar, Casparij, Damaris, Van Dongen, Jansen, Kaptein, Leuchter, Miedema, Van de Sanden, Snoeijs, Wilms.
England may be European champions and World Cup runners-up but there remain no guarantees in international sport. If Sarina Wiegman’s team do not defeat the Netherlands at Wembley this evening, they will wave goodbye to a crack at next year’s Paris Olympics.
The Lionesses are obliged to beat the Dutch, and then Scotland away on Tuesday, to stand a chance of topping League A Group 1 and qualifying for the semi-finals. As a squad, they have become well accustomed to winning, but previous defeats against the Netherlands in September and then against Belgium in October leave them third in the group and firmly on the back foot.
The next few hours will be a test of their collective mettle. Team news and more coming right up.