This should have been Stuart Pearce's day in the sun... the chance to show the Football Association (FA) that he could shoulder the burden of leading the country's national team to glory at the 2012 European Championships... the chance to show he (and not Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp) should be the natural successor to Fabio Capello... the chance for the players to show they could match and maybe even beat a Holland side that along with Germany and Spain have been tagged as one of the favourites for the Euros.
Pearce and his charges didn't quite manage the win. Holland beat their hosts 3-2, courtesy two strikes from a simply amazing performance by Arjen Robben. However, for perhaps the first time since the whole John Terry-racism-captaincy issue, the Three Lions have a few minutes to be proud of.
Pearce, as a result of both injuries to key players and a desire to stamp his own authority on the team, had called up several fresh faces including Sunderland's Fraizer Campbell, Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge and Manchester City's Micah Richards (who last played for the national side in 2007). On the pitch, he named Scott Parker as his captain for the game.
England started with Adam Johnson, Ashley Young, Steven Gerrard and Welbeck providing attacking outlets, with Gareth Barry and the new skipper supporting them. Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Leighton Baines and Richards were tasked with protecting Joe Hart.
Holland, meanwhile, named a strong side, with Arsenal's talismanic striker Robin van Persie leading Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Dirk Kuyt. Mark van Bommel and Nigel de Jong were their supporting cast, while Khalid Boulahrouz, Erik Pieters, John Heitinga and Joris Mathijsen were Maarten Stekelenburg's defensive shield.
The game started and continued for about an hour with the visitors in absolutely dominant form. Opening goals from Robben and Klass Jan Huntelaar (who came on for van Persie) were only compounded by a rather confused and erratic performance from England.
In fact, the hosts did very little of note... until the final five minutes... when an inspired and superb five minute comeback period brought them level. The goals were scored by Cahill and Young.
However, that man - Arjen Robben - had other ideas. The hectic last five minutes of the game continued when the Bayern Munich man struck his second of the evening and his side's third, to claim what was ultimately a deserved win for them.
As for England, well, Pearce will have to go back to the drawing board. Apart from the five minutes that produced two goals, England remained the underperforming and uninspired side that Capello was given.
In worse news for the hosts, the horrible second-half clash of heads between Smalling and Huntelaar (which left both of them severely injured), led to the former being stretchered off the Wembley pitch. He was treated for a long time on the pitch before being taken to a waiting ambulance.
England 2 (Cahill 85', Young 90') lost to Holland 3 (Robben 57' and 90', Huntelaar 58')
Check out video highlights of the game and photographs below: