Daniel Sturridge scored the only goal after great work from Adam Lallana as England beat a weak Danish side 1-0 at Wembley. Sturridge headed in Lallana’s inviting cross with nine minutes remaining to at least give Roy Hodgson a winning result if not a winning performance.
A very poor and uncreative first half was followed by a better second, although question marks still remain over some of the fringe players. Luke Shaw was given his debut as he battles with Ashley Cole for the second left-back position with Leighton Baines seemingly favourite to go to Brazil as first choice.
Raheem Sterling showed lots of effort and willingness to get forward and was probably England’s best player on the night, whilst Southampton’s Lallana has surely done enough to put himself on the plane to Brazil. Leicester City and Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel kept his side in the game after some top class saves.
This was Roy Hodgson’s last look at his players in an England shirt before he names his provisional squad of 30 in mid-May, shortly after the completion of the Premier League season.
As expected, five Liverpool players started for England with Hodgson employing Gerrard and Henderson in midfield, together with Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere. Sturridge started in a left- forward role with team mate Sterling on the right and Wayne Rooney on the left. Glenn Johnson completed the five playing at right back, Ashley Cole had his shot to impress the manager at left-back with Southampton’s new kid on the block 18-year-old Shaw expected to play the second 45 minutes.
Denmark lined up with many well known faces including Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel, son of the Manchester United legend Peter, Liverpool’s Daniel Agger and Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner.
England started tentatively with Rooney and Johnson guilty of giving away early possession as the Danes put men behind the ball looking to hit the hosts on the counter attack. There was an early scare for Wilshere and Arsenal fans as Agger caught the midfielder on the top of the foot as the defender tried to rescue his own heavy touch. Although he received lengthy treatment, he returned to the action.
Gerrard stole the ball from Sloth 25-yards out but was cynically tripped. However, the resulting free kick was wasted by Rooney as England struggled to create anything of note against a very ordinary Denmark side.
Sterling and Sturridge swapped flanks and both looked the more likely of the England players to cause problems for the Danes. And so it proved, as Sturridge tricked the defender with a couple of step overs before fizzing a cross shot across the six-yard box but Rooney and Wilshere were unable to apply the final touch.
Denmark looked neat and tidy and should have taken the lead on 38 minutes. Attacking at pace, as opposed to England’s pedestrian attacking play, Jakob Poulsen found a huge chasm through the middle of the home defence but took a touch too many allowing Gary Cahill the chance to smuggle the ball away to safety.
As Denmark had shown England how to attack, the hosts responded in kind with their best football of the half. Sturridge moved the ball to Rooney on the left who waited for Cole to overlap before playing in the Chelsea left back. His perfect cross should have been touched home by Sterling, but Jakob Ankersen did enough to see the ball hit the post.
It had taken England 43 minutes to wake up and just before half time Sturridge found himself all alone in front of goal but the big Danish goalkeeper Schmeichel denied him with an outstretched boot.
Hodgson made only the one change at half time and as expected Shaw replaced Cole making him the fourth Southampton player to make his England debut this season. He immediately showed his promise, combining well with Sterling he knocked in a superb cross into the danger area which was hacked away by the Danish defence.
Wilshere, who looked as though he hadn’t recovered from his earlier knock, was replaced by Lallana and Danny Welbeck came on for Rooney but it was Denmark again who almost took the lead. Sloppy defending by England allowed Rasmussen the chance to ghost in but Joe Hart made his first meaningful save, spreading himself well to deny the forward.
Schmeichel showed glimpses of his father by denying England three times in the space of eight minutes. First he reacted well to deny Welbeck’s powerful drive, before a clever one-two with Henderson saw the Manchester United striker a sight on goal but he smothered the danger superbly. Next Sturridge had an effort from the right side parried by the big keeper as England now looked much more threatening.
Henderson, who had been mostly anonymous, was replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and with nine minutes remaining England finally got the breakthrough. A quickly taken corner by Lallana saw him receive it back off Sterling and as he beat two men with a body swerve he dinked a lovely ball up to the back post where Sturridge guided his header back across Schmeichel into the corner.
A goal which on the balance of play England thoroughly deserved. Man of the match Sterling was replaced by Andros Townsend as the game drew to its conclusion.
Hodgson now has to select a squad from these players based on this performance with Sterling and Lallana two players who have enhanced their reputations. Euestion marks still remain over the likes of Chris Smalling, Jordan Henderson and a possible brave decision to leave Ashley Cole at home and take the raw but obviously very talented Luke Shaw.
England XI: Hart, Johnson, Cole, Gerrard (c), Cahill, Smalling, Wilshere, Henderson, Sturridge, Rooney, Sterling
Denmark XI: Schmeichel, Sloth, Ankersen, Poulsen, Kjaer, Agger, Kvist, Jacobsen, Bendtner, Larsen, Krohn-Dehli.