England’s 1-0 win in Amsterdam Friday night was marred by a double blow to the Three Lions’ backline, as both Joe Gomez and Harry Maguire were forced off with injury.
Nonetheless, for Alfie Mawson and James Tarkowski, the unfortunate circumstances could provide them with an opportunity for their England debuts.
The inclusion of Mawson and Tarkowski are perfect examples of Gareth Southgate’s willingness to ditch the status quo and select emerging talents in front of bigger-name stars.
Those omitted from the 25-man squad for the Netherlands and Italian friendlies include the likes of Gary Cahill (58 caps), Chris Smalling (31 caps), and Phil Jones (24 caps).
Instead, the uncapped pair of Burnley and Swansea defenders could be set to feature against Italy.
Mawson has enjoyed a meteoric rise ever since joining then-League One Barnsley in 2015. The defender made 45 appearances that season, leading the Tykes to promotion through the play-offs.
A transfer to Swansea City followed, where he has made 50-plus appearances and gained an impressive reputation for no-nonsense defending and a knack for scoring off set pieces.
A player who has experienced a similar rise, Tarkowski spent his early 20s cutting his teeth in the Football League, amassing over 140 appearances in League 1 and the Championship before he was 24.
After gaining promotion with Burnley, Tarkowski has shone in the Premier League, playing an integral role in the top flight’s fourth-best defense.
On Friday night, Tottenham centre-half Eric Dier replaced Harry Maguire, but against the Azzurri Southgate may opt for an unorthodox defensive set-up.
The England manager is no stranger to bold friendly experiments- the Netherlands match featured no fewer than four full-backs in the starting XI.
Alfie Mawson and James Tarkowksi will be hoping Southgate takes another roll of the dice and hands the two promising defenders their first caps; it may prove an inspired move come June.