Players take the blame for Denmark shambles

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The Independent Football

There were no excuses from the Liverpool captain for England's collapse on Wednesday - which included three goals in seven minutes after the hour - and his sentiments were echoed by Gary Neville, David Beckham and Frank Lampard. The elder statesmen of the England dressing-room are normally the most resistant to pressure to criticise the team's performance, but this time they also acknowledged, as Eriksson had, that the nature of the defeat had been shocking.

Gerrard said: "We were given a lesson in the second half. In the first half we did OK and defended well as a team but for some unknown reason it all went wrong after that. We stopped doing the right things from a defensive point of view and as a team it was a shambles.

"People were switching off all over the pitch, but you can't blame individuals. We were compact in the first half, they couldn't get through us, and we looked dangerous on the counter-attack. Maybe we could have gone in 1-0 up at half-time. But from front to back we stopped defending as a team and we all started playing individually. And when you do that at this level you get punished.

"This definitely brings us back down to earth with a bang. We need to get things sorted out and we need to go back to basics. Hopefully, we'll do that and take it out on the Welsh and Irish in the next two qualifiers.

"It's all about small details. But when you go a goal down and start chasing you get punished by three or four goals. That's happened to us. It wasn't good enough.

"We've proved over the last couple of years we can play against quality teams. This was just a bad night. Everyone wants to do well at the World Cup and the expectation is justified because it's about time we did deliver. But if we go into the World Cup playing like that we've got no chance."

The defeat to Denmark, the nation's heaviest since a 4-1 loss to Wales in Wrexham in May 1980, provoked the strongest condemnation of an England performance from Eriksson since he took over the role more than four and a half years ago. The Swede said that the performance had made him angry and that he would make changes to the squad ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Wales in Cardiff on 3 September.

Gary Neville said: "Embarrassed isn't the right word, but we're very disappointed; disappointed about the fact we've been beaten in such a way and that so many fans had travelled over. Sometimes it's difficult to make four changes [at half-time] and get the same level of performance, but we're always going to do that in friendlies. It's obviously not good enough, but we don't seem to perform anywhere near the same in these games as in competitive games.

"We'll beat them when it matters, don't worry about that. I don't think it, I know it. For the first-half performance, we should have been two or three up. When it matters, there wouldn't be a problem against Denmark. They may be a better team than some of the sides we've played in our qualifying group, but I've no concerns about confidence. It doesn't seem like the right time to say it, but I believe that if we were playing them in a qualifying game the result would have been better. It's a slap around the face. It'll keep everyone downbeat for the next few weeks, but we won't be. We'll be fired up and prepared to play against Wales. We've got a difficult game there. If we were going to have a bad performance, that was probably the right time to have it, although not in that manner."

Wayne Rooney, England's goalscorer and a rare reason to be optimistic, described the match as "probably one of the worst games I've had for England.".

Rooney added: "Lucky it was a friendly. It's a horrible feeling, one I don't want to experience again. Hopefully, in two weeks' time we can come back and put things right. It's bad enough to lose by one goal - to lose 4-1 is awful."

Lampard said: "We are not happy that this is the worst defeat in 25 years. We are proud people and we are proud players. We know that we have fantastic quality in the team and in the squad and nobody wants to set those sorts of records. The fortunate thing about it is that it was a friendly and it was a kick up the arse for us in the extent [that] in two or three weeks' time we have two massive games to play. It is not about the back-up players. We did not make that many changes today.

"We have to take the result on the chin as a squad rather than criticising anybody who came on."