Daniel Sturridge scored a late winner as England defeated Denmark, 1-0, in an international friendly on Wednesday evening at Wembley.
Sturridge headed in Adam Lallana's cross in the 82nd minute for the game's only goal as England continued preparations for this year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The Three Lions had lost their last two matches, against Germany and Chile, and had not scored since Oct. 15, 2013. But the victory will give Roy Hodgson's side confidence as the World Cup looms less than 100 days from now.
Preparations are far from complete, but Wednesday's match will have given Hodgson another chance to evaluate all the players before bringing his final squad to Brazil following the domestic season. England have been drawn in a tricky Group F with four-time champions Italy, two-time champions Uruguay and outsiders Costa Rica.
Facing such tough competition, the Three Lions will have a difficult task in reaching the knockout stages. But after taking his side to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012—where they were knocked out by Italy—Hodgson has said England have a chance to progress.
"I definitely don't think that we are favourites to win the tournament but I also refuse to believe we need to be written off," Hodgson told BBC Sport in February. "If these players can achieve what we see them achieve sometimes, then we have a chance."
Hodgson eventually might be proven correct, but against Denmark—a side that failed to qualify for the World Cup—England were unable to find the net until the final 10 minutes.
A good chance arose when Wayne Rooney sprung Denmark's offside trap in the 20th minute and ran on to Raheem Sterling's pass before rounding goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. From there, the Manchester United man tried a shot from a tight angle, but the ball flashed wide of the far post.
Two minutes later, defender Gary Cahill blasted over the target after bringing down Steven Gerrard's corner inside the box. Then in the 32nd minute, Sturridge found space on the right before sending a cross-shot into the middle. Rooney and Jack Wilshere were lurking in the area, but neither could put a touch on the ball.
Denmark had a chance in the 39th minute, when Jakob Poulsen burst into the box and shot past Hart. But Poulsen's shot was slow and England cleared off the line.
England had one more chance just before the first half ended. In the 44th minute, Ashley Cole squared for Raheem Sterling from the left, but the ball went past both Sterling and his marker and rebounded off the far post.
After the break, Denmark had the first opening in the 57th minute. Arsenal's Nicklas Bendtner gathered a pass on the left side of the box, went past Cahill and shot low at Hart, who saved. Three minutes later, Rooney's free-kick bounced off Denmark's wall before Gerrard volleyed the rebound narrowly wide.
Hart saved from Denmark substitute Steffen Rasmussen in the 65th minute, and Schmeichel palmed away England substitute Danny Welbeck's low effort three minutes later.
Schmeichel did well to save again in the 71st minute as Welbeck tried to poke in Sturridge's deflected pass. Sturridge then shot at Schmeichel five minutes later as the game appeared to be headed for a scoreless draw.
But then the breakthrough came in the 82nd minute.
Lallana, a second-half substitute, worked a short corner with Sterling, working the ball toward the outer-left corner of the box before cutting back toward the byline. Lallana then crossed to the back post where Sturridge rose highest to head the ball back across Schmeichel and into the net.
It turned out to be the only goal needed as England saw out the match to complete a 1-0 victory.
|England Player Ratings vs. Denmark|
|Luke Shaw (for Cole, 46')||6.2|
|Adam Lallana (for Wilshere, 59')||7.0|
|Danny Welbeck (for Rooney, 60')||6.9|
|Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (for Henderson, 71')||6.1|
|Andros Townsend (for Sterling, 86')||No rating|
|James Milner (for Sturridge, 88')||No rating|
|Denmark Player Ratings vs. England|
|Kasper Kusk (for Larsen, 46')||6.5|
|Jesper Juelsgard Kristensen (for Jacobsen, 46')||6.4|
|Niki Zimling (for Sloth, 62')||5.9|
|Andreas Bjelland (for Kjaer, 62')||6.0|
|Steffen Rasmussen (for Bendtner, 63')||6.3|
|Danny Olsen (for Poulsen, 81')||5.9|
England manager Roy Hodgson praised his team's performance, saying the quality of play was "really good" from the 60th minute.
Speaking to TheFA.com, Hodgson said:
From the 60th minute onwards we showed some really good play and Adam Lallana made a big difference.
It was a very organised Danish team and we had to work very hard. Kasper Schmeichel had an outstanding game in goal.
It is too hard to judge on one performance and if we want to use these players together, there is some work to do to make sure they gel.
Our passing was a bit too slow in the first half and in the second half we got behind opposition a bit more and created the chance that led to the goal.
In his remarks, Denmark coach Morten Olsen took a jab at England's World Cup chances.
As quoted by Metro, Olsen said: "I wish you good luck in the World Cup. You need it."