England played out a dreary deadlock with Denmark in Copenhagen as the Nations League meeting turned into a drab non-event.
Harry Kane almost won it for England in the dying seconds when he went round Denmark keeper Kasper Schmeichel, only to see his shot cleared off the line by Mathias Jorgensen – but such a poor quality encounter barely deserved a dramatic finale.
Manager Gareth Southgate will have hoped for some talking points on the pitch after the off-field distraction that saw young duo Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood sent home for breaking Covid-19 protocols in Iceland.
Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Conor Coady made a measured England debut while Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips had a quiet introduction – and Aston Villa midfield man Jack Grealish finally got his long-awaited bow with 14 minutes left.
Denmark had the better chances until Kane’s late effort, with England keeper Jordan Pickford saving well from Kasper Dolberg in the first half and Christian Eriksen shooting over when well placed late on.
England were sterile and conservative, creating very little apart from a Kane header off target and a low shot from Raheem Sterling that brought a smart save from Schmeichel before that late chance.
Arsenal youngster Ainsley Maitland-Niles became England’s fourth debutant in the final minutes on a night of very little excitement.
Southgate conservatism fails to inspire
England’s ploy of playing a three-man central defence and effectively two holding midfielders in Phillips and Declan Rice afforded Denmark the sort of respect that might be better reserved for more elite sides.
It set the tone for a disappointing England performance, lacking in ambition and threat and one which would not have have deserved the late victory Kane almost gave them.
There is the usual context that this is effectively a pre-season game in an international guise for England’s players but there was no excuse for such a lifeless display lacking in energy.
England’s attacking trio of Kane, Sterling and the anonymous Jadon Sancho were nowhere near their best but they could point to the fact that they were cut off from any sort of supply line by the manner of Southgate’s set-up.
The team itself had an experimental air but there was no escaping England should have done much better than this.
Coady’s leadership qualities seen and heard
Wolves captain Conor Coady was no shrinking violet as he made his England debut, making his presence felt and heard even before kick-off.
As silence fell on the largely deserted Parken Stadion in the seconds before the start, Coady’s voice was heard bellowing instructions to his new England colleagues.
The 27-year-old looked at home with England, urging team-mates on throughout and shouting tactical instructions. He also played well and can be very satisfied with his first taste of senior international football, playing his part in the clean sheet.
It was a more subdued night for 24-year-old Leeds midfielder Phillips but it is worth remembering this is a player entering international football before even making his debut in the Premier League.
England’s system was not ideal for him and there were times in the first half when the game passed him by but he showed composure on the ball and did not waste possession, improving in the second half.
Grealish can finally got the opportunity that will delight his many supporters but he had little time to influence affairs, apart from a couple of trademark jinking runs that came to nothing.
Most debutants in competitive game since 1962 – match stats
- This was England’s sixth goalless draw in 43 matches under Gareth Southgate – as many as Roy Hodgson played out in 56 games in charge. The last England manager to oversee more 0-0s was Bobby Robson (17).
- England managed just two shots on target, their fewest since their behind-closed-doors match against Croatia in October 2018 (also two).
- England have kept a clean sheet in five successive competitive matches for the first time since another run of five ending in March 2017.
- Denmark have kept a clean sheet in six of their past eight matches in all competitions, conceding just three goals in this time.
- England’s first shot on target in this game came in the 70th minute courtesy of Raheem Sterling – it was the longest they had to wait since a World Cup match against Costa Rica in 2014 (80th minute).
- This was the first time the England men’s team has named four debutants in a non-friendly match since October 1962 in a European Championship qualifier against Poland (Ray Charnley, Chris Crowe, Mike Hellawell, Alan Hinton).
- Phillips was the first Leeds United player to start for England since Danny Mills in 2003, while Coady was the first Wolves player to start for England since Steve Bull in 1990.
- 13M Jorgensen
- 15NørgaardSubstituted forHøjbjergat 73′minutes
- 12DolbergSubstituted forFalk Jensenat 76′minutes
- 9BraithwaiteBooked at 52minsSubstituted forKjaerat 82′minutes
- 5Maehle Pedersen
- 11Falk Jensen
- 19Bruun Larsen
- 2Alexander-ArnoldSubstituted forMaitland-Nilesat 87′minutes
- 7PhillipsSubstituted forGrealishat 76′minutes
- 11SanchoSubstituted forMountat 60′minutes
- István Kovács
Match ends, Denmark 0, England 0.
Second Half ends, Denmark 0, England 0.
Corner, England. Conceded by Zanka.
Attempt blocked. Harry Kane (England) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Kieran Trippier.
Attempt missed. Simon Kjaer (Denmark) header from the right side of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Robert Skov with a cross following a set piece situation.
Foul by Joseph Gomez (England).
Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Harry Kane (England).
Thomas Delaney (Denmark) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, England. Conceded by Simon Kjaer.
Corner, England. Conceded by Andreas Christensen.
Attempt blocked. Harry Kane (England) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Jack Grealish.
Jack Grealish (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Thomas Delaney (Denmark).
Substitution, England. Ainsley Maitland-Niles replaces Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Corner, Denmark. Conceded by Mason Mount.
Attempt missed. Robert Skov (Denmark) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Andreas Christensen.
Foul by Joseph Gomez (England).
Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Denmark. Simon Kjaer replaces Martin Braithwaite.