Danish coach tells dire England 'good luck' at the World Cup

Grim display at Wembley from lacklustre England does not bode well for the summer

Steven Gerrard
(Image credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

England 1 Denmark 0. There were 68,000 people at Wembley last night to watch England play Denmark in the Three Lions' final friendly before coach Roy Hodgson selects his squad for the World Cup. This morning they must be wondering why they bothered.

They could have gone down the pub or stayed in and watched England's cricketers win something for once as they beat the West Indies. Surely, anything would have been more interesting than 90 mind-numbing minutes of third rate football featuring 22 players whose minds were elsewhere.

Denmark haven't qualified for the World Cup, so they have an excuse, but for England's finest this was their last chance to stake a claim for a place on the plane in a couple of months' time. You would never have thought it.

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Things were at rock bottom by half-time after 45 minutes of awful football that left former England international Danny Mills in a trough of despair. "That was very, very disappointing," he muttered on BBC 5 Live. "It was too slow, there was a lack of tempo, a lack of energy in the passing and there was no urgency in the closing down. I don't want to be too downbeat about England but I am not sure what positives we can take from that."

Still, onwards and upwards. Surely the second half couldn't get any worse. It didn't, but it didn't get any better either. But at least there was a goal nine minutes from time when Daniel Sturridge rose to head home Adam Lallana‘s cross. Incredibly, it was England's first goal in more than four hours of international football, since Steven Gerrard scored in the 2-0 win against Poland in October.

Since then England have lost 2-0 to Chile and 1-0 to Germany and though the Three Lions never really looked like losing against Denmark – though Morten Rasmussen had a glorious chance to score but shot straight at Joe Hart in the second half – nor did England look likely to score for most of the match. So bad were the hosts that for the first time in years Arsenal's Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner didn't look out of his depth on a football pitch.

That England did finally break the stalemate was due to the substitutions made by Hodgson in the last quarter, hauling off Jack Wilshere and Wayne Rooney and replacing them with Danny Welbeck and the lively Lallana. That allowed Sturridge to play through the middle and suddenly England began to play with a bit of pace. Just a bit, mind.

Nonetheless it was a desperately poor encounter, played out in an atmosphere so quiet television viewers could practically hear the players communicating – and the spectators crying at the realisation they'd paid as much as £55 a ticket. Long before the final whistle the crowd began making their own entertainment, launching into one Mexican wave after another. It was the most movement Wembley witnessed all night.

Not that you would have believed it listening to Roy Hodgson's post-match press conference. Judging by his comments the England boss has already started taking lessons on positive thinking from newly-appointed psychiatrist Steve Peters. "If I was to say one thing I was most pleased with it would be the fact we put a lot of youngish players who haven't played a lot for England on the pitch, and they did a good job and improved their chances," he enthused. "It means headaches for me but it's good news. I'm happy with their desire to get on that plane."

A more realistic assessment came from Danish coach Morten Olsen: "I wish you good luck in the World Cup," he said. "You need it."

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Bill Mann is a football correspondent for The Week.co.uk, scouring the world's football press daily for the popular Transfer Talk column.