In a dull meeting in Copenhagen tonight, Denmark drew 0-0 with England. The game saw largely lacklustre performances from both sides, who both now sit behind Belgium in League A Group 2 of the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League.
Chances were few and far between throughout the game, with both sides managing just two shots on target. Overall, the it felt almost like a pre-season friendly rather than a competitive match, which was disappointing for anyone viewing it.
Here are five talking points from Denmark’s 0-0 draw with England.
#1 Southgate’s selection and tactics must be brought into question
Eyebrows were raised when England’s team was announced tonight, as boss Gareth Southgate switched from his favoured 4-3-3 formation into a 3-4-3, a twist on the 3-5-2 system used in the 2018 World Cup.
To say the switch didn’t pay off would largely be an understatement. It’s fair to say that to have a ‘Plan B’ wouldn’t be a bad thing for England, but most fans would’ve agreed that to start with both Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in central midfield would leave the Three Lions short of creativity.
This issue may not have been so obvious if England had been able to call upon a recognised left-sided player – either a winger or wing-back – but that wasn’t the case. The right-footed Kieran Trippier again played in the right-wing-back role ahead of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who has at least played in that spot for Arsenal.
It came as no surprise that England failed to create a single meaningful chance in the first half and largely stuttered in the second too, until Mason Mount and Jack Grealish were introduced late on.
To play such a defensive side with so little creativity in a game like this was alarming to say the least. Southgate has banked tons of goodwill over his four years in charge of England, but it’s hard to imagine that fans could’ve been happy with his choices tonight.
#2 England’s latest debutants didn’t look out of place
Tonight’s game was the first time since 1962 that England had used four uncapped players in a competitive game and thankfully for boss Gareth Southgate, three of them appeared to be at home on this stage.
Wolves’ Conor Coady was perhaps England’s most impressive defender, not putting a foot wrong while his passing range also looked excellent in the first-half. On numerous occasions, he was able to find Trent Alexander-Arnold or Jadon Sancho with some beautiful long passes.
Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips struggled at times, but this appeared to be largely due to playing an unfamiliar role in a system that was somewhat questionable. However, ‘The Yorkshire Pirlo’ still won five tackles – the most of any player on the pitch – and managed to keep an 81% pass success rate. He certainly didn’t look out of place on the senior international stage.
Prior to kick-off, fans had been clamouring to see Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish handed a chance for England. While he only got around 15 minutes to make an impact, he still provided the fans with one of the game’s only exciting moments by dribbling into the box before he was finally stopped by the Danish defence late on.
Of course, it’d be unfair to judge Ainsley Maitland-Niles on his three minutes on the pitch, but overall his versatility should provide him with plenty of opportunities with England in the future.
Southgate’s squad might not have the depth of rivals such as France or Belgium, but the England boss definitely has plenty of talent to call upon and tonight was an example of this.