Danes delighted with draw as a disinterested England flounder

June 20 – The last time England met Denmark in a meaningful match, the semi-finals of the delayed 2020 Euro’s, Mikkel Damsgaard stunned the 64,000 in attendance at Wembley Stadium with one of the all-time great free kicks.

Alas for the Danes, it wasn’t enough on the night as a controversial penalty was awarded to the Three Lions, and despite Kasper Schmeichel making a great save, from England captain, Harry Kane, the number nine knocked home the rebound to give England the 2-1 win.

At Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt on a humid but pleasant evening, Denmark would look for revenge against an England side that for all its special parts had not yet set the tournament alight.

The demand from the supporters to England boss, Gareth Southgate was simple “take the handbrake off and let the best front five in the tournament have fun” however sending out the same team that served up the stodge in an uninspiring 1-0 over Serbia in Gelsenkirchen screamed Southgate conservatism.

Foden was almost on fire

The beauty of these Euros has been the atmosphere and Denmark and England traditionally bring colour and vibrancy to any occasions.

This would be no exception as the two sets of supporters created a carnival atmosphere inside the stadium where the roof was closed trapping in the wall of sounds cascading down from the stands.

A cagey first 10 minutes got this contest off to a slow burner as England began with the pragmatism demanded by their manager, while the Danes seemed happy just to see what England had, which wasn’t a lot.

The newest England chant is ‘Phil Foden is on fire’ and the Manchester City player had his name lustily sung in the 13th minute as he found space in the penalty area only to fire high when the top corner was begging to be filled, still it was a sign of intent which four minutes later produced the first goal of the game.

Slack defending from Victor Kristiansen allowed Kyle Walker to cross from the right. It wasn’t well hit but took two cruel deflections before landing at the left foot of Kane, who couldn’t miss from six yards out to score his 64th international goal and first of these Euros.

Could Denmark respond? Yes, they could, driven on by their manager, Kasper Hjulmand who was using every inch of the coach’s technical box. They proceeded to boss proceedings creating chance after chance without finding the killer opportunity until England’s hero, Kane carelessly gifted the ball away.

Christian Eriksen pushed and probed England’s porous midfield

His cross-field pass was picked off and the ball was shifted inside to Morten Hjulmand. Despite being twenty-five yards out, no one in a white shirt bothered to step up and apply pressure. Hjulmand wasn’t going to die wondering, so he unleashed a low fizzing drive that smashed off Jordan Pickford’s inside post for a deserved equalizer.

England were clearly the masters of their own demise for playing so passively. When will they and Southgate learn that this isn’t the style that will see them become a true force in the competition?

With half-time approaching the difference in body language was stark. Denmark in the form of Christian Eriksen, Pierre Hojberg and Rasmus Hojlund were playing with their chests puffed out and a smile on their faces.

England on the hand were scared, timid, and their talisman, Jude Bellingham seemingly disinterested. Other than Foden, no England player looked like they wanted any part of this contest as they consistently gave each other bad passes and then wagged fingers at each other.

Gareth Southgate has been the Three Lions boss for eight-years. His half-time talk needs to be inspirational and reflect all that experience because right now, England are a disorganized rabble looking short on confidence.

Whatever Southgate said in the dressing room made no difference in the first five minutes of the second half, because they looked even more lethargic. The weight of the shirt clearly slowing them down.

A change had to be made and in the 53rd minute Conor Gallagher entered to bring some life into that morbid midfield as the Trent Alexander-Arnold experiment is clearly not working. The impact was instant. Bellingham finally came to life and started driving forward.

In the 55th minute, Foden unleashed a fierce drive that smashed the foot of the post, but Saka couldn’t knock home the rebound.

Bukayo Saka o under pressure from Victor Kristiansen

With the team playing further up the pitch confidence began to flow. Denmark were now sitting back waiting for a mistake and it duly arrived in the 63rd minute as Rice lost the ball and gifted it to Eriksen who’s shot flew just high.

International management is about making big calls and in the 68th minute Southgate finally grew a pair and changed his entire front line, removing Kane, Saka and Foden and bringing on Jared Bowen, Eberechi Eze and Ollie Watkins.

Just three minutes later, Bellingham, with a slide rule pass released Watkins, who forced a smart save out of Schmeichel. Back came Denmark immediately with a low drive from Hojberg that Pickford palmed wide as the game opened into the free-flowing football we want from this tournament.

Rice has not been at his best today and a classic hospital ball sold Marc Guehi down the river as he lost out to Alexander Bah. Now it was a race, and Guehi had given a five-yard start, however the Crystal Palace man made up the ground with a last-ditch challenge that saved what would’ve been a golden opportunity.

With time drifting away, England showed no desire or imagination to get the winner and if anything, Denmark had the better attitude as the Three Lions launched hopeful and pitiful balls into the box hoping for something, anything.

The scenes at the end of the game summed it up perfectly. The England end emptied in seconds while the massed ranks of Danes stayed behind to salute their heroes. I suppose a draw was a fair result, but this felt like a win for Denmark and a morale sapping loss for England.

England may top Group C and be in pole position, but Southgate has some work to do because as always England expects, and this wasn’t good enough.

Contact the writer of this story, Nick Webster, at moc.l1721414497labto1721414497ofdlr1721414497owedi1721414497sni@o1721414497fni1721414497