Roy Hodgson's England waited 82 minutes before scoring its first and only goal via a Daniel Sturridge header in a 1-0 win over Morten Olsen's Denmark, but there are still worrying signs for the English in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
"I wish you [England] good luck in the World Cup," Olsen said, per Jack Pitt-Brooke at the Independent. "You need it."
Daniel Sturridge: Wide Forward?
Hodgson lined England up in a 4-3-3 with Sturridge starting on the left.
Sturridge has scored 10 times in his last 10 Premier League games for Liverpool, so for him to be instructed by Hodgson to spend portions of the game on the flanks is devoid of logic.
Surely, Hodgson is aware playing out wide at Chelsea is the reason why Sturridge wanted out and eventually moved to Liverpool, where his partnership with Luis Suarez, the Premier League's top scorer, is world class.
"I was often asked to play in a different position [at Chelsea] and to do a job for the team," Sturridge said last month, per Anfield Wrap (h/t Liverpool's official website), but, having been a striker and then being asked to just flick a switch and play on the wing was always going to be difficult..."
Hodgson had Sturridge running after the ball trying to keep it in play, and then he was deep in his defensive half clearing the ball as a quasi-right-back.
Two of Sturridge's best moments in the game were from a central position.
He dragged a Danish player out of position, played it to Wayne Rooney, who passed it to Ashley Cole, whose low cross led to Raheem Sterling hitting the post.
Who headed the ball past an outstanding goalkeeper in Kasper Schmeichel? Sturridge.
No one is asking Hodgson to be a tactical genius like Jose Mourinho. Just play the footballers in the right position.
Sturridge has scored 18 Premier League goals this season, so start him up front.
But what about Rooney?
That seems to be the primary problem for Hodgson.
Like Manchester United management giving Rooney an exorbitant £300,000 per week before the season is even finished, per BBC Sport, Hodgson is bowing down to Rooney as if he is Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Rooney strolled around for 60 minutes (did not make a tackle or interception) against Denmark, took several pot shots and it was clear he had no interest in giving maximum effort.
That kind of attitude is why Rooney has never scored a goal at the World Cup, nor has he helped England win a major tournament.
Compare his display to substitute Adam Lallana, who played the game as if it was a World Cup final.
He played an incisive pass to Danny Welbeck, who would have been through on goal, if not for a poor first touch. To Welbeck's credit, he recovered and managed to get off a shot.
Lallana made the play of the game when his pinpoint cross found Sturridge, who headed home.
Lallana is skillful, he is direct and he plays with passion. Several years ago, he was playing in League One, so he does not take representing England for granted like Rooney.
|Shots Per Goal||7.2||3.8|
|Key Passes Per Game||2.0||1.2|
Either play a 4-2-3-1 with Sturridge up top and Rooney behind to take advantage of his playmaking ability or, if Hodgson persists with a 4-3-3, drop Rooney for Sturridge, since he has scored eight more goals while playing two less league games and has a far more efficient shots per goal average.
Is Chris Smalling International Standard?
Olsen set Denmark up on the counter so Hodgson's England, or Liverpool lite (five Reds in the starting XI), completed 90 percent of their passes and held the ball 57 percent of the time.
Not to mention, Olsen did not play influential attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen, who was not 100 percent fit, per Sky Sports.
Therefore Smalling, who was very sluggish, was fortunate he did not encounter a more up-tempo team because he would have made the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Gary Cahill is gesticulating to Smalling to move over, but he is in his own world marking no one and does not cover the gap.
Then there was the time when Smalling attempted two tackles and failed to recover the ball on either occasion.
As Bleacher Report world football tactics lead writer Sam Tighe said: "Mario Gotze or Oscar could rip England to shreds if they left themselves as open as they did tonight."
It was a fruitless win against Denmark—a team that did not even qualify for the World Cup—for Hodgson. If England do not drastically improve—they will underperform at the World Cup again.
Statistics via WhoScored