England will mark the beginning of an unexpected new era on Wednesday as they welcome the Netherlands to Wembley in their first match since the sudden resignation of Fabio Capello.
Placed in temporary charge of the senior team until the Football Association appoint a permanent successor to the Italian is Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce. He knows all about overcoming the Oranje having been part of the last England side to do so in the memorable 4-1 EURO '96 victory at the old Wembley.
That performance is widely considered one of England's best in recent memory, but Pearce suggested his current crop of players would do better to look to the Netherlands for inspiration ahead of this summer's UEFA EURO 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.
"I don't think they'd learn a great deal [from the 1996 team]," said the former left-back. "We have to learn something from a side as good as the Dutch on Wednesday evening.
We have to go into the game being confident and come out of it with a feel-good factor and a decent result. We're testing ourselves against one of the best sides in Europe, without a doubt."
Having already worked with the majority of the squad at U21 level, Pearce is confident that his inexperienced squad can follow the example set by Germany's Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira, who flourished at the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship before going on to star at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa a year later.
"Make no mistake, the Germans had a fantastic clutch of talent and I think six or seven ended up going to South Africa," said the 49-year-old. "It's the progression you look for at international level. [James] Milner, [Joe] Hart – all these players have tournament experience and know what it's like to be in group stages and knockout situations."
Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge were England's strike partnership at last year's U21 finals in Denmark and, with the more established Wayne Rooney (illness) and Darren Bent (ankle) ruled out, the duo are vying with the uncapped Fraizer Campbell for the chance to continue their development at senior level.
"I have no doubt these young men have the ability to deliver a performance," said Pearce, who will not name his captain until the team meets at their hotel on Wednesday morning. "Various individuals had fantastic tournaments last summer for the U21s and that stands us in good stead, but we as a nation must be patient with developing our young talent."
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