Rooney the saving grace amid disaster

Denmark 4 England 1

There will be many who try to say in the next few weeks that England's heaviest defeat in 25 years is not a portent of disaster for the World Cup next summer, but those who sat in front of Sven Goran Eriksson last night as he used that very word to describe this match are entitled to think otherwise. Some of the great unconditional hope that pervades every World Cup season and this country's prospects died in Copenhagen last night and reviving that over the months that lie ahead may be a task beyond even a manager as forgiving as Eriksson.

James's error in the 60th minute that allowed in Jon Dahl Tomasson to create Denmark's first goal should prove the knell for his England career, but there was something more fundamental to the mistakes that let in another three goals to let this collapse simply be pinned on one man. As Denmark plundered two more over the next seven minutes, there was a vulnerability to England that suggests they are not the team, not yet at least, that might take on the world next summer.

The Denmark team that inflicted the heaviest defeat on England since Ron Greenwood's side succumbed to Wales in Wrexham in May 1980 should not prove a problem next summer in Germany, if only because they are not unlikely to qualify for the World Cup.

In the first half, when Eriksson fielded what represents his strongest team, Michael Owen excepted, England offered stout but unimaginative opposition. A crisp passing side given a gleaming edge of menace by Wayne Rooney, whose goal came only in the 87th minute when the rout was complete. The striker was one of the few participants in the second-half collapse who was absolved of blame.

The 19-year-old is never better than when he plays on the edge of his temper and he had cause for frustration in the few chances that England created. One high-speed break in which the rampaging Rooney sprinted past Jermain Defoe, who was in possession, left the Tottenham player so bewildered as to his strike partner's intentions he simply passed into space. Rooney should have had a penalty when Brian Priske appeared to pull him to the ground as the teenager exploded on to a pass.

The best chance of the half fell to Defoe, who in the 30th minute met a Steven Gerrard cross from the right awkwardly on the volley. He struck it into the ground and, as the ball bounced up, Thomas Sorensen had to tip over.

The half-time mass exchange of personnel has, so often, been the crossroads at which England friendlies feebly lose their way, although rarely in terms that were quite so spectacular. The changes introduced Glen Johnson at right-back, who suffered one of the most humiliating 45 minutes of his young career, but even that was nothing compared to the humbling endured by James. After last night he can scarcely have a future as Paul Robinson's No 2.

Denmark's first goal was an old James aberration. A rush of blood, a snap decision and Tomasson had escaped James's lunge and taken substitute Thomas Kahlenberg's through ball past the goalkeeper. Even so, the former Milan striker looked safe in the corner of the area by the touchline but Ashley Cole mistimed his tackle and, freed again, the Danish captain squared the ball for Charlton's Dennis Rommedahl to tap home.

That goal belonged all to James and his poor judgement but there were to be plenty more culprits for the next two. On 63 minutes, Claus Jensen came down England's right, past Johnson, and cut the ball back into the area where only Ashley Cole could offer the most timid of clearances. As an entire England defence stood and watched, Rommedahl headed the ball back towards Tomasson who diverted it into the goal from close range.

The third, on 67 minutes, was no less awful, a defence grounded and uncertain as Michael Gravgaard pushed his way to the front post, past no less a defender than Jamie Carragher, to head home Rommedahl's corner.

With three minutes left, David Beckham found Rooney with a ball down the right and the striker placed his shot past Sorensen, but there was one more indignity awaiting England when Soren Larsen slipped ahead of Rio Ferdinand to nudge the fourth goal past James. The night had been a disaster: its implication for this team, and what they might achieve next summer, perhaps even more grave.

Denmark (4-4-1-1): Sorensen (Aston Villa); Priske (Genk), Nielsen (Brondby), Agger (Brondby), N Jensen (Fulham); Jorgensen (Fiorentina), Poulsen (Schalke 04), Gravesen (Real Madrid) Gronkjaer (Stuttgart); C Jensen (Fulham); Tomasson (Stuttgart). Substitutes used: Gravgaard (FC Copenhagen) for Nielsen, h-t; Rommedahl (Charlton) for Gronkjaer, h-t; Kahlenberg (Auxerre) for Jorgensen, h-t; Larsen (Schalke 04) for Tomasson, 64; Perez (AZ Alkmaar) for C Jensen, 73; D Jensen (Werder Bremen) for Poulsen, 87.

England (4-4-2): Robinson (Tottenham); G Neville (Manchester Utd), Ferdinand (Manchester Utd), Terry (Chelsea), A Cole (Arsenal); Beckham (Real Madrid), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), J Cole (Chelsea); Defoe (Tottenham), Rooney (Manchester Utd). Substitutes used: James (Manchester City) for Robison, h-t; Johnson (Chelsea) for G Neville, h-t; Carragher (Liverpool) for Terry, h-t; Owen (Real Madrid) for Defoe, h-t; Hargreaves (Bayern Munich) for Lampard, 64; Jenas (Newcastle) for Gerrard, 84.

Referee: T H Ovrebo (Norway).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas