England find encouragement for the future in victory over Denmark

Goals from Darren Bent and Ashley Young gave England a 2-1 victory over Denmark last night and, even taking into account the usual muted nature of a friendly, there was plenty to encourage Fabio Capello ahead of the next round of competitive games.

Making hard and fast judgements about England after a non-competitive fixture is always to be advised against, but, in any game, coming from behind to win when away from home must be commended. Half a dozen of the 11 that started yesterday were regulars through the World Cup debacle – Glen Johnson, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, James Milner and Wayne Rooney – and to overturn a useful Denmark side in front of a partisan home crowd was a display of fortitude too rarely seen in South Africa. While Denmark had their chances England were never overrun, perhaps due to pulling the hosts level so soon after falling behind, and holding firm in the face of further Danish pressure thanks, especially, to good work from left-back Ashley Cole against the flying Denis Rommedahl.

The selection of Jack Wilshere generated much discussion before the game, centred around the Arsenal midfielder being given an unfamiliar role at the base on midfield. The 19-year-old was tidy with the ball and robust when taking on more defensive duties, coming out on top in a number of tackles cleanly and winning possession ahead of the first England goal. While Capello was non-committal over Wilshere’s chances of starting against Wales, the youngster’s performance hinted at a bright future wearing the Three Lions, and more regular football and strong performances at the Emirates Stadium should cement Wilshere’s place in the next England squad, if not the starting XI. Having played slightly further forward under Arsene Wenger this season, the versatility Wilshere can offer England makes him particularly valuable to Capello.

Wilshere’s deep-lying playmaker role – more Andrea Pirlo than Claude Makelele – suited the team against Denmark and encouraged a passing game as opposed to the more direct style England have sometimes resorted to under the Italian. The team’s performance was generally more composed and thoughtful than in previous games, with each player selected from the start and the substitutes who received a run-out of a decent length looking comfortable in a 4-2-3-1 formation. For a team who have struggled for a footballing identity under Capello, never more so than during the World Cup, such comfort was perhaps surprising. But the real test will come when some of the senior stars missing on Wednesday return. Where, for example, Steven Gerrard fits with Wilshere in the anchor role, is a question Capello must answer.

Having those kinds of dilemmas, however, is preferential to the selection headaches that have plagued the Coach previously. With Gerard to re-enforce the midfield, Andy Carroll to return in attack and captain Rio Ferdinand to come back in defence, and impressive substitute performers Scott Parker and Ashley Young pushing for a starting place, England’s future finally looks a little brighter.

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