England 1 Denmark 0: Five things we learned from narrow victory, including Jack Wilshere must show his good side
The Three Lions also showed how essential a fit Rooney is to their aspirations
Thursday 06 March 2014
Wilshere must ensure his good side shines through
There is often a risk when playing Jack Wilshere – not least to himself – but he showed again that it is, on balance, probably worthwhile.
The opening minutes, in which Wilshere charged around, flying into tackles, felt as if they were not going to end happily.
With his first serious bit of action in the game, Wilshere gifted the ball to Nicklas Bendtner and then threw himself into a futile tackle, trying to win it back. That was dangerous enough but when, minutes later, he stretched into a 50-50 challenge with Daniel Agger, he initially appeared to have suffered a bad knock to his right ankle, and it came as some surprise that he could continue.
But he did carry on and, until his substitution in the 58th minute, looked like one of the England players likelier to spark something into happening. Indeed, he was far more willing to take chances than Jordan Henderson. That, with Wilshere, is the good side and the bad.
England need a fit Rooney to spark into life in Brazil
It barely needs saying, but tonight the evidence was clearer than ever: England need a fit, sharp Wayne Rooney if they are to have even the slightest chance of getting out of the World Cup group stages.
On a good day – and Rooney has had many for England in the last few years – the gulf in class between him and England’s next-best player is striking. Tonight, when Rooney was poor, the lack of a single world-class talent was even more glaring.
When Rooney is good he directs all of England’s attacks – showing for the ball, finding space, playing clever angles and scoring goals. He looked like a man worn down by a disheartening club campaign with Manchester United, devoid of all spark and wit, and with an agricultural first touch.
His main attacking contributions were two poor free-kicks and two shots over the crossbar. England will certainly need more in Brazil if they are to make progress in the tournament.
Lallana has game-changing vision absent in team-mates
The fact Adam Lallana’s skills – ambidexterity, imagination, vision, patience – mark him out from his peers was clear with a 30-minute substitute appearance that must push him towards the front of the queue for places available to game-changing players in England’s squad.
Lallana opened up avenues of attack that England had not even contemplated before. He made the winning goal, taking the ball on the edge of the box, shuffling into space before playing the perfect cross on to the forehead of Daniel Sturridge. Before then there was also a delightful Cruyff turn inside the penalty area.
Sturridge yet to convince with Welbeck a better bet
Fitting Rooney and Sturridge together is fairly near the top of Roy Hodgson’s list of tasks. Rooney’s profile and Sturridge’s form demand their inclusion, but the 4-4-2 which won England their final World Cup qualifiers will not always be appropriate. So Hodgson tried to use Sturridge wide of Rooney in a front three.
The problem for Sturridge, despite his goal, is that Danny Welbeck appears a better fit for that role. Sturridge struggled to combine well with his team-mates. Hodgson could use Sturridge and Welbeck in tandem, but with Raheem Sterling and Lallana impressing, Sturridge’s options may be limited to up front or on the bench.
Ashley Cole must still be one of Hodgson’s main men
England’s senior centre-back, Phil Jagielka, was missing, and their first-choice left-back Leighton Baines was left on the bench. England did not look like a team who could afford to leave a full-back capped 106 times at home in June.
The communication across the back line was not perfect. Gary Cahill badly misjudged one long ball in the first half, had to cover to block a shot after leaving too much space between him and Chris Smalling, and Denmark nearly got a far-post equaliser from a late free-kick.
In Brazil England will face teams with far more attacking talent. Even though they should have Jagielka and Baines in the team, if they need an alternative left-back, they would surely rather have a man playing his sixth major tournament and not his first.
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