England vs. Denmark: 6 Things We Learned

Matt Cheetham@@Matt_CheethamCorrespondent IMarch 5, 2014

England vs. Denmark: 6 Things We Learned

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    England ground out a 1-0 win over Denmark in an instantly forgettable friendly at Wembley.

    Roy Hodgson's side dominated long periods of the game without finding enough sustained gusto in attack.

    Denmark were content to sit back and frustrate the home side, causing a few nervy moments on the break themselves.

    It took 82 minutes to finally end the Danish resistance, as Daniel Sturridge rose to nod home Adam Lallana's cross.

    Here's a look at some of the main talking points to emerge from this game. 

Control Without Enough Conviction

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    Having surrendered too much possession in recent friendlies to Chile (57 percent) and Germany (55 percent), England had to gather control of this game.

    Allowing the Danes just 43 percent was an improvement, but while this provided a better platform to dominate, there was not enough tempo to pose a regular threat.

    Particularly during the first half, the Three Lions' pace was languid, and their passing became laboured and predictable. There were too many touches in the build-up and not enough quick bursts and attacking interplay.

    This lack of adventure led to just one shot on target during a first period of 65 percent possession.

    During the second half, England sat further back and subsequently improved, inviting the visitors forward to open up more space in the final third. 

    This contributed to more persistent attacks, but the right blend of control, tempo and attacking fluency was rarely found during this performance.

Potential in England's System

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    Despite some difficulties in approach, England's system is worth persevering with.

    Hodgson deployed a fluid 4-3-3 system, with Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney all interchanging in attack.

    This enforced elements of Liverpool's recent attacking play, and against a nation that is more inclined to keep the ball, England would have posed a genuine threat on the break.

    In this game, there was perhaps more need of an attacking focal point to work around. 

    At the World Cup, however, and especially against the likes of Italy and Uruguay, this system may prove effective. 

Question Marks Remain in Defence

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    A win and a clean sheet are clear positives for England, but once again, the back four produced hesitant moments that will concern Hodgson.

    Denmark found several routes to goal with very little possession or territory, and Jakob Poulsen should have capitalised on one instance of a peculiarly wide gap between Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill.

    England's centre-backs had little to do but rarely seemed assured, playing more as individuals than as a partnership.

    Given his mediocre club form, Smalling seems especially fortuitous to be starting games for England at the moment. 

Lack of Goals Becoming an Issue

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    Hodgson will also be concerned about his side's lack of goals in recent games.

    Three home ties with Chile, Germany and Denmark have yielded just one set-piece goal—England's last strike from open play came 264 minutes ago.

    While he was by no means at his best, Sturridge's goal should confirm his status as a key attacking player for England and his country's best hope of resolving this.

    Hodgson was wise to try to incorporate aspects of Liverpool's attacking play, and Sturridge's ability to replicate and prolong his club form will be pivotal in Brazil. 

Kasper Schmeichel Impresses

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    From a Danish perspective, Kasper Schmeichel was the best player on the pitch.

    Despite England's often ponderous build-up play, the home side carved out enough chances to win and were thwarted by some fine saves from the Leicester stopper.

    He twice reacted quickly to deny Sturridge and also rushed out well to smother Danny Welbeck one-on-one.

    Stephan Andersen has been Denmark's No. 1 since Euro 2012, but this performance will push the 27-year-old right into contention to start.

    Several scouts will have also noted his expiring contract this summer. 

Adam Lallana Provides Vital Spark

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    Adam Lallana's 30-minute cameo made as much of an impression as any player during this game.

    His arrival coincided with England finding more fluency in their play as well as more incision and ambition in the final third.

    His neat turn and cross provided the game's only goal, and despite Lallana's limited time on the pitch, only Raheem Sterling created more chances than the Southampton skipper's three.

    He now seems assured of a ticket to Brazil and is making an increasingly irresistible case to start.

    Without his introduction, this game may have petered out into a draw.

     

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