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England’s Draw Against Denmark: A Reality Check for the Three Lions

England’s Draw Against Denmark: A Reality Check for the Three Lions

Kai Iliev Kai Iliev

It is the same story at every tournament. England fans boast about having the best squad, be it the EURO or the World Cup, only to severely underestimate other challengers. Reality inevitably hits England hard.

A 1-1 draw means that The Three Lions still lead Group C, but for many, this draw felt like a defeat. When the internet is flooded with English fans complaining about everything surrounding the match, you know something went wrong. It’s a cyclical saga that repeats every other year.

Collectively Absent

Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Declan Rice: the squad is packed with stars, yet the Three Lions seem to be playing in the dark, as if without guidance. 

Declan Rice started along with Trent Alexander-Arnold, expecting the latter’s creativity to benefit England’s attacking third. It didn’t. His desire to speed up play backfired, as the Danes used every misstep to punish Southgate’s team. 

It is not that the midfield lacked the tools to be a great offensive or defensive unit – it’s just that it appeared disinterested and unable to find solutions. On multiple occasions, the Danes passed through like a hot knife through butter. This raises questions about where the faults lie. 

The players under Gareth Southgate are no novices, they’re winners at the club level. Jude Bellingham won the Champions League and was a top scorer contender in La Liga, Phil Foden had a wonderful season, Declan Rice was one of the season’s standout midfielders…and yet, nothing.

Sure, football isn’t linear. But how do eleven players forget the basics of football? It’s not just the tactics, where Southgate accepted the blame in a post-match press conference.

This is one aspect, but England also looks dull in character, if there is any. Nobody seems motivated – compared to most participants, the Three Lions don’t look interested in football or winning the trophy. Many of them seemed like they didn’t want to be there.

In the previous game (1-1 vs Serbia), the first twenty minutes seemed promising under Bellingham, who scored the opener and only goal of the encounter. 

That goal was also the last memorable action from the English. The first game mishaps can be overlooked; things happen. What’s troubling is that the second game has historically always been difficult for Gareth Southgate’s team.

Looking back at the records, a pattern emerges of England often scraping through the second game in a questionable draw despite boasting the best players. 

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Southgate’s Questionable Style

Many questions cannot be easily explained, which is where Gareth Southgate himself comes into play. During his tenure, England has never truly found its identity. Unlike other favourites and even some underdogs, England still seems uncertain about its style of play. 

While nobody expects Southgate to manage like a club coach, other national teams have a clear footprint. 

Southgate’s team, however, does not. He continues to delay addressing this issue, as noted in the presser after yesterday’s match. He defended Trent Alexander-Arnold, who had a poor performance and shifted the focus to missing a replacement for Kalvin Phillips. 

While Phillips has his merits, the squad Southgate brought to Germany is far from subpar. This raises the question: Why is Southgate so fixed on Phillips?

The rest of Southgate’s post-match responses were equally disheartening. He suggested that his team struggled under the weight of being tournament favourites. This argument is flimsy at best; it’s not just about motivation. It also begs the question of why his team never plays like one of the favourites. 

England is an ‘almost’ team, falling short of international glory multiple times: losing to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, to Italy in the EURO 2020 final, and to France in the 2022 World Cup. 

According to Southgate, all of this is due to a lack of motivation. Fans are supposed to believe that the lack of communication between the players – which led to the Danish goal – and the lack of coherence in the midfield are all down to the players’ character. 

However, not everything is bleak. England had their moments, as always. The issue is not the occasional brilliance but that most of England’s opportunities arise from individual genius rather than collective effort. Phil Foden showcased some creative flicks and hit the post, and Kyle Walker delivered a low cross, but these moments were insufficient, especially considering they made Denmark look like a formidable opponent.

The Danes, who had already drawn 1-1 against Slovenia, were not particularly impressive.

England’s Opponent Came Ready

In many ways, Denmark was the antithesis of England’s disappointing performance. While the Three Lions lacked belief, panicked, and hesitated, Denmark had a single plan that was enough. 

England often found itself pressed by their opponent and saw no option but to give the ball back. The Danes capitalized on their counter-attacks, taking advantage of England’s weaknesses without needing sustained pressure.

Compare this with England, who struggled to play through the midfield, defend or attack effectively. 

One of the few relevant points mentioned in the presser was his team’s inability to press well. That is a major problem because a similar pattern was noticed in the first game against Serbia. England appeared half-decent on the ball but was a complete disaster off it. 

It allowed the Serbs to walk through the wings with ease. Similarly, Denmark calmly manipulated England’s block. Connor Gallagher was perhaps the only player who showed a willingness to press, standing out amid the stars. 

England needs more than just character; it needs an identity. Until they establish this, they are likely to repeat past mistakes.

The Aftermath

England will probably make it out alive from the group stage. With four points, they lead the group and face Slovenia next. 

Meanwhile, Slovenia drew 1-1 against Serbia, displaying a similar dominance to their performance against Denmark. 

England have been warned – Slovenia knows how to fight and will do everything to qualify after over a decade of absence from the tournament. While England is poised to qualify, the real question is at what cost?

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