England Eschew Rigidity and Replicate Liverpool, but Was Denmark a Good Test?

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMarch 5, 2014

Getty Images

WEMBLEY, LONDON—Roy Hodgson's England passed Denmark off the park on Wednesday night, utilising a glut of Liverpool players in the XI and replicating the Reds' style of play during their 1-0 win.

Jordan Henderson re-entered the fold and started alongside Steven Gerrard, and both he and Jack Wilshere showed no hesitation in bombing forward to create overloads in central areas.

Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge—also of the red persuasion at club level—interchanged frequently with Wayne Rooney as the team dove-tailed its way toward the opponent's penalty area.

At half-time England had 63 percent possession, had registered six shots on goal and hit the post via a deflected Ashley Cole cross. Only excellent Kasper Schmeichel goalkeeping kept the Three Lions at bay for so long.

The football was good, the movement was excellent, but how translatable is the performance? Admittedly not very, and that's a little concerning given the importance of the fixture.

It's the last World Cup warm-up before Hodgson names a 30-man preliminary squad for the tournament, and if now is the time to take on a seismic strategic change, it needs to be tested against quality opposition.

Denmark played their part in the friendly, but with no motivation due to their failure to qualify for the finals this summer, they coasted the 90 minutes. They switched from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 in the second half and trialled a new way of playing, thus signalling their thoughts on the importance of the game.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: Steven Gerrard of England looks on during the International Friendly match between England and Denmark at Wembley Stadium on March 5, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Morten Olsen refused to risk Christian Eriksen as promised pre-game, and the greatest attacking threat came through a half-interested Nicklas Bendtner.

There was no change to England's shape, with Hodgson's regular 4-3-3 in place and functioning well. Sturridge played 87 minutes which was no surprise, as the manager has tried his hardest to get the Liverpool man involved where possible this season.

What was different, however, was the amount of men England were happy to commit beyond Gerrard in an effort to remain free-flowing. They were gung-ho at times, with both central midfielders pushing on and leaving the captain and two centre-backs behind.

You have to expect the players to temper their attitudes—or at least demand Henderson and Wilshere rotate in their forays forward—as it's highly unlikely Gerrard will be left unattended against better sides with something to play for.

Bendtner caused him little trouble, but Mario Goetze or Oscar could rip England to shreds if they left themselves as open as they did tonight.

It made for a confusing take on the game, as 99 days before the tournament is hardly the time to trial an expansive, new, risky way of playing. It was a 90 minutes that opened up far more questions than it answered, with even Glen Johnson reminding us he's in the race to start at right-back.

Denmark were far from the perfect opposition, and this was far from the conclusive outing Hodgson will have been seeking.