Football Features

Two big England problems exposed in Denmark draw: “I’d be screaming at him”

By Harry Edwards

Published: 19:10, 20 June 2024

England missed out on the chance to secure top spot in their Euro 2024 group after a 1-1 draw with Denmark.

With Slovenia and Serbia drawing in Thursday’s earlier kick-off, England knew victory over Denmark would see them guaranteed to top Group C with one game to spare.

The game had started well for England, who took the lead through Harry Kane in the 18th minute. It came from Kyle Walker’s great determination to capitalise on a lapse in concentration from Victor Kristiansen on the flank.

There was a bit of fortune that the cross fell to Kane’s feet, but it was luck well-deserved. Kane’s finish was calm under pressure, with the Bayern Munich striker scoring his fifth goal at a European Championship.

Kane is only the third player to score in four separate major tournaments for England, after Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, having also scored at Euro 2020 and the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. He’s also the only player to score at least five goals at both the World Cup and European Championship for England.

It wasn’t perfect, but England showed promising signs, playing much better than they did in the second half against Serbia. There was a clear shape with Kane leading the line, the full-backs pushing up high, particularly Walker who linked up well with Bukayo Saka.

But, just as they did against Serbia, England sat back and allowed Denmark to apply pressure. And, unlike against Serbia, it proved costly. As the average positions below showed, both Walker and Kieran Trippier’s dropped below the halfway line. Trent Alexander-Arnold was also a lot deeper, rendering him pretty ineffective as he had no one to really play the ball over the top to.

Interestingly, Walker said after the game that Southgate isn’t telling the players to sit back, instead talking about the reading of the game on the pitch.

“I think it’s just the game. You’re sensing the game, you’re sensing their feelings,” he told BBC Sport.

“They probably had the upper hand in certain parts of the game, so you go off of that. As defenders you try to think of ‘what if’, rather than me charging forward, they go and score and all of a sudden they’re blaming us in defence that we’re not in position.”

Denmark were level just after the half-hour mark thanks to Morten Hjulmand’s long-range effort, after Kane had given the ball away in his own half with an errant pass.

Kane did only misplace one other pass, but his passes were coming in the wrong area for England. In fact, he spent a lot of the time in the wrong areas of the pitch.

We all know that Kane’s game has changed over the past few years, with the striker liking to drop a lot deeper to influence matches. He has the passing range to be able to do so, he just needs the players to run in behind in the space he leaves.

The problem for England against Denmark, though, was that they were trying to press but didn’t have Kane involved in that press. His starting position was far too deep, allowing the Denmark defence to advance with the ball and push England back. In the first half, Kane had just 14 touches in the first half, completing six of his eight passes.

Speaking at half time, both Rio Ferdinand and Micah Richards were scathing of the England captain.

“I’d be going mad. I’d be screaming,” Ferdinand said.

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“I couldn’t have my centre forward not filling in with the workload that the other players are putting in. I need to see that intensity at some point. Put their centre halves under the pressure that I’m receiving as an England defender.”

Richards added: “There’s a conundrum with the way England want to set up. They want to press and they’ve got the players to press but Harry Kane is so good at scoring goals, and his record is unbelievable. And when his goal comes, you’re thinking, ‘okay, Harry Kane, confident’. But the other side of the game, he just needs to improve.”

Kane was taken off in the 69th minute, with the score still at 1-1 and England under pressure. He had eight further touches in the second half, ending the match with 13 passes completed from 15 attempts. But, a point worth noting is that six of Kane’s passes were backwards. Not good for England.

“In all honesty Harry Kane needs to do a lot better,” said Gary Lineker.

“He’s plodding short, very lethargically, and that’s not going to help. He’s not creating space for himself.”

England do still sit top of Group C on four points, but qualification for the last 16 isn’t secure just yet.